January 19, 2018

We’re not that far apart

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U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Official photo.

The American people have to be scratching their heads in wonder, watching us here in Washington, completely dumbfounded as to why on Earth we can’t get to yes on a deal to fund the government, extend health care to millions of American children, invest in our military and protect the fine young men and women we know as Dreamers. The American people are right, because the truth is that we aren’t that far apart.

Republicans and Democrats are close to agreement on numbers for the budget caps. We agree that the Children’s Health Insurance Program must be extended. And we even have a bipartisan deal on the table to shield Dreamers from across this country from the deportation machine that President Trump unleashed in September when he announced that he would cancel the DACA program.

The simple truth of passing a budget is pretty straightforward. It’s about math. Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives, and have a slim majority here in the Senate. But to actually pass anything, the bill put forward needs to have bipartisan support here in the Senate.

The House CR or budget patch, doesn’t even have the support of a number of Republican Senators. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise since it was crafted in a closed room in the House with no input from House Democrats and no input from most of my Senate colleagues on either side of the aisle.

To begin with, a continuing resolution — also known as a CR or budget patch — is an admission of failure. We are supposed to pass actual appropriations bills around here. This can has been kicked down the road for months.

Here is what Dana White, the Chief Pentagon spokesperson, said last night about how destructive these continuing resolutions are to military readiness:

We have been working under a #ContinuingResolution for three years now. Our current CR expires tomorrow, 19 Jan. This is wasteful and destructive. We need a fully-funded #FY18budget or face ramifications on our military.

— Dana W. White – DoD (@ChiefPentSpox) January 18, 2018

The Pentagon is correct, we don’t need another CR. If we HAVE to pass another CR, it should be so short that it forces both sides to stay at the table hammering out a full year budget deal. And that budget deal will need votes from both sides of the aisle, 60 at the very least.

That will not happen if one side demands purity and only their priorities. I learned a long time ago that there will always be things you don’t like in any budget deal. I do not expect purity, but I do expect BALANCE. I also expect both sides to solve the very real crises that the President created when he unilaterally cancelled DACA and hit “GO” on a deportation clock that will devastate some of the most productive young leaders in my state.

It is a good sign that rather than leaving town and going on a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the House leadership has elected to stay here in DC over the weekend. How about we get everyone in a room and land a budget deal that the vast majority of us can live with?

That’s the type of compromise that the American people expect of their elected leaders in Washington. And that’s what we all need to do. Let’s get both sides back to the table to negotiate a long-term deal. I think you’ll find that every single member of our caucus will want to be at the table open to negotiations – trying to get to an agreement we can all say YES to.

Martin Heinrich is a Democratic U.S. Senator who represents New Mexico.