House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to have one intended listener during a Thursday morning TV appearance to promote Congress' massive spending bill: a reluctant president.
President Donald Trump entered Wednesday hesitant to support the $1.3 trillion plan, which would pair a massive military funding increase with a boost to domestic spending to improve infrastructure and battle the opioid epidemic, among other programs. Trump had concerns over such issues as the amount of money set aside for his proposed border wall, the lack of a provision to pull money from so-called sanctuary cities, and whether funding would go toward a rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York that he opposed.
Trump reportedly threatened to veto the bill to fund the government through September if it put money toward the tunnel, which is part of the Gateway plan to revitalize rail transportation.
After Ryan went to the White House on Wednesday to sell Trump on the legislation, the administration said the president supported it. Trump sent a tweet Wednesday night in which he appeared to back the proposal.
On Thursday morning, Ryan appeared on"Fox & Friends" — a Fox News Channel morning show Trump frequently watches and tweets about — to again promote the plan as a victory for Trump's priorities: strengthening the U.S. military and boosting border security, among them.
"This funds the wall, fixes the military, fights opioids and does the things that we said," the Wisconsin Republican said. He also emphasized that the measure does not give money directly to the Gateway project. Rather, Ryan said, it "gives Donald Trump the decision on Gateway."
Ryan repeatedly highlighted how the plan helps Trump's agenda or meets his demands. Congress "actually exceeded what the administration asked us for" in funding for border security technology and fencing along the border with Mexico, Ryan said. The bill would increase border security funding by $1.6 billion, though it would fund fencing rather than a "wall," which Trump has promoted.
"The administration, meaning the president, gets to decide which cities" get funding for mass transportation systems, Ryan said. The House speaker added that "we also fund the president's opioid campaign" to curb abuse of the drugs.
"The president asked" lawmakers to include measures intended to strengthen gun sale background checks and improve school safety, which they did, Ryan noted. He also promoted the roughly $80 billion increase in Department of Defense funding as a win for Trump and service members.
"This is the Trump-[Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis budget for the military," Ryan said. "That's probably the biggest victory here is what we're doing for our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our Marines, our veterans. This fixes that massive problem."
Ryan's comments came ahead of an expected House vote on the legislation Thursday afternoon. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Friday at midnight or see the government's funding authority lapse for the third time this year.
The hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus has already announced its opposition to the bill. A member of the group, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox on Thursday that "this may be the worst bill I have seen in my time in Congress."
The House could overcome the group's opposition with support from most Republicans and Democrats. Ryan appeared not to be counting on backing from the Freedom Caucus.
"Jim's never voted for one of these bills, ever. I don't expect him to do it anytime in the near future," he said Thursday.