Is Congress ready to avert government shutdown?

The Capitol (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The House is set to pass a government-wide temporary spending bill to prevent a federal shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30.

The bipartisan measure would give lawmakers until the Thanksgiving break to pass and negotiate $1.4 trillion worth of annual agency spending bills. Those bills would fill in the details of this summer’s budget and debt agreement between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thursday’s House vote comes as the Republican-controlled Senate struggles to process its versions of the follow-up spending bills amid partisan skirmishing over the boundaries of the budget agreement and Trump’s moves to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border fence without approval by Congress.

The Senate is likely to adopt the stopgap bill with plenty of time before the deadline.

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Can Congress keep government running this time?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The good news is that it doesn’t look like a bitterly polarized Washington will stumble into another government shutdown.

But as Democrats controlling the House unveil a stopgap, government-wide spending bill to keep the lights on and pay the troops, there’s scant evidence that power sharing in the Capitol will produce further legislative accomplishments anytime soon.

The measure that is set for a vote this week would keep the government running through Nov. 21 and buy time for action and negotiations on $1.4 trillion in annual appropriations bills. Some items can’t wait and will be included, like accelerated funding for the 2020 census and $20 million to combat Ebola in Africa. President Donald Trump also appears likely to win authority to continue bailout payments to farmers harmed by his aggressive trade policies against China.

Since the temporary spending bill is the only must-do legislation on the immediate horizon, lawmakers are using it as a locomotive to haul other priorities into law. That bundle of provisions, negotiated behind closed doors, offers plenty of evidence of Capitol Hill’s chronic dysfunction.

It’s not just that the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-held Senate can’t agree on big issues like infrastructure, guns and health care. They also can’t agree on lower-tier items that typically pass by wide margins, such as short-term extensions of the federal flood insurance program and the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance export deals important to large manufacturers such as The Boeing Co.

The House and Senate banking committees are responsible for legislation to reauthorize both the Export-Import Bank and the flood insurance program, which is particularly important to the real estate sector in coastal areas, but there’s been no progress.

Meanwhile, a bundle of health care-related provisions, such as Medicaid payment rates for hospitals that serve mainly lower-income communities, is catching a ride on the temporary spending bill, according to a spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Democrats aren’t trying to use the bill as a way to take on Trump controversies like cutting military base projects to pay for his U.S.-Mexico border wall. But they’re not granting Trump any favors, either, denying provisions as the flexibility to build new border wall segments.

An early draft of the stopgap measure, circulated by Lowey, did not include Trump’s request for maintain funding for the farm bailout, but talks Monday appeared headed toward a bipartisan compromise that would allow the Agriculture Department to keep issuing checks to farmers.

The bailout started last year after China retaliated against Trump’s tariffs on Chinese exports by reducing purchases of U.S. crops. The developments have caused widespread discontent in farm country that’s already beset by lower crop prices and vanishing profits.

The House is slated to pass the stopgap spending measure this week and the Senate is expected to follow in time to meet the Sept. 30 deadline to avert a government shutdown. The effort comes nine months after Trump started a 35-day partial government shutdown when lawmakers rebuffed his border wall demands.

The $1.4 trillion in annual appropriations bills are off to a late and not particularly promising start despite a bipartisan budget and debt deal passed in July. The House has passed 10 of the 12 annual bills, but at spending levels higher than permitted under the budget deal.

The Senate is roiled by battles over Trump’s $5 billion border wall request and his moves to tap military base construction projects to pay for it. Democrats complained that Senate Republicans are giving too much funding to Trump’s cherished wall project at the expense of health and education projects.

Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster an upcoming vote on a huge, almost $700 billion defense funding bill to protest preliminary funding decisions of Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate.

“Our Democratic colleagues would rather provoke a partisan feud with the president,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “They’d rather have a fight with the president than stick to the agreement that we all made.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer responded that Trump’s wall funding plan “is what Democrats oppose. That’s what Leader McConnell calls staging a political fight.”

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Abortion, border wall tie up spending bills in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., arrives for a news conference following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fights over abortion and President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall have thrown Senate efforts to advance $1.4 trillion worth of agency spending bills into disarray, threatening one of Washington’s few bipartisan accomplishments this year.

A government shutdown remains unlikely, but agencies face weeks or months on autopilot while frozen at this year’s levels if the logjam isn’t broken.

At issue are 12 annual budget bills to fund the day-to-day operations of the government. The bills are needed to fill in the details of this summer’s budget and debt deal — which reversed cuts scheduled to slash the Pentagon and domestic programs and increased the government’s borrowing cap so it won’t default on its payments and Treasury notes.

Sweeping votes on July’s budget blueprint were a kumbaya moment in Trump’s polarized capital. But the Senate Appropriations Committee, tasked with filling in the details, has been beset by infighting in advance of a bill drafting session on Thursday.

Democrats complain that panel chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., following the lead of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is shortchanging the popular health and education measure to fund Trump’s $5 billion request for his border wall. They are also furious about Trump’s moves to raid $3.6 billion in military base construction projects to pay for 11 additional border fence segments totaling 175 miles (282 kilometers) in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

“That’s created a real problem,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the most senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “To take money from substandard schools for children of military people … that’s left a very bad taste.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is poised with an amendment to an almost $700 billion Pentagon funding bill to block Trump’s unprecedented fiscal maneuvers, and he has several potential GOP allies on the committee.

Durbin’s threat doesn’t seem to have Republicans on edge, but Republicans say that Democrats such as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a savvy panel insider, are breaking summertime promises to avoid adding “poison pills” to the measures that could bog them down or attract Trump veto promises.

In particular, Murray is pressing to overturn a Trump executive order that takes away federal family planning funds from organizations like Planned Parenthood that counsel women about their abortion options.

The stakes were raised last month when Planned Parenthood announced it would stop accepting Title X federal family planning funds rather than comply with a Department of Health and Human Services edict to comply with the abortion counseling ban. Two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio closed this week.

Murray’s amendment would likely pass the Appropriations panel, where two pro-abortion rights GOP women would likely side with her. Facing that prospect, Shelby dropped the health funding measure from the agenda, along with a foreign aid bill that also faced an abortion controversy.

“His gag order changed Congress’ intent” to award family planning grants to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Murray said. “Title X has had bipartisan support forever.”

The panel has a long history of smoothing over its differences on abortion in the interest of getting its legislation passed, however, and both sides want to press on and work out the challenges. House members like Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., are eager to start House-Senate conference committee talks aimed at legislation both chambers can pass, as is McConnell.

“We’re hopefully going to get past this little rough patch and get back to the agreement we all signed onto,” McConnell said Wednesday.

“We’ll get it done because there’s a desire to get it done,” Leahy said. “We know how to do it.”

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Massive bipartisan budget deal passes Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber for votes on federal judges as a massive budget pact between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump is facing a key vote in the GOP-held Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A hard-won budget and debt deal easily cleared the Senate on Thursday, powered by President Donald Trump’s endorsement and a bipartisan drive to cement recent spending increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

The legislation passed by a 67-28 vote as Trump and his GOP allies relied on lots of Democratic votes to propel it over the finish line.

Passage marked a drama-free solution to a worrisome set of looming Washington deadlines as both allies and adversaries of the president set aside ideology in exchange for relative fiscal peace and stability. The measure, which Trump has promised to sign, would permit the government to resume borrowing to pay all its bills and would set an overall $1.37 trillion limit on agency budgets approved by Congress annually.

It also would remove the prospect of a government shutdown in October or the threat of deep automatic spending cuts.

The administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., played strong hands in the talks that sealed the agreement last week, producing a pragmatic measure that had much for lawmakers to dislike.

Trump did step back from a possible fight over spending increases sought by liberals, and achieved his priorities on Pentagon budgets and the stock market-soothing borrowing limit. Pelosi won remarkable Democratic unity in pushing the bill through the House last week despite Democratic divides on issues such as impeachment and health care.

Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate delivered most of their votes for the deal. Many of the more solidly conservative Republicans said it allowed for unchecked borrowing and too much spending.

The measure was an epitaph to the 2011 Budget Control Act, which came about due to a tea party-fueled battle over debt limit legislation during the run-up to President Barack Obama’s re-election. That law promised more than $2 trillion in deficit cuts through 2021, including automatic spending cuts that were put in place after the failure of a so-called deficit supercommittee.

“It’s not just Democrats. Republicans are also guilty. At least the big-government Republicans who will vote for this monstrous addition of debt,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “Many of the supporters of this debt deal ran around their states for years complaining that, ‘President Obama’s spending too much and borrowing too much,’ and these same Republicans now, the whole disingenuous lot of them, will wiggle their way to the front of the trough.”

The bill would lift the debt limit for two years, into either a second Trump term or the administration of a Democratic successor.

It would reverse scheduled 10 percent cuts to defense and nondefense programs next year, at a two-year cost of more than $200 billion. An additional $100 billion over two years would add to recent gains for military readiness, combating opioids and other domestic initiatives, and would keep pace with rising costs for veterans’ health care.

Follow-up legislation would fill in the line-by-line details of agency budgets when the Senate returns in September.

Those increases, assuming they are repeated year after year, promise to add $2 trillion or so to the government’s $22 trillion debt.

But the measure would deliver wins to a coalition of GOP defense hawks, Democrats seeking to preserve gains in domestic accounts, and the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

It also would be a triumph for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He initiated the negotiations and was deeply invested in bringing order and relative predictability to the budget and debt deadlines.

“We have to invest in improved readiness to help our military commanders plan for emerging challenges, in research and development to support the U.S. military of the future, and in rock-solid support for our alliance commitments,” McConnell said. “This deal is an opportunity to do exactly that. This is the agreement the administration has negotiated. This is the deal the House has passed. This is the deal President Trump is waiting and eager to sign into law.”

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Budget deal avoids shutdown, default

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addresses the NAACP convention, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders announced Monday a critical debt and budget agreement that’s an against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid political and economic tumult over the possibility of a government shutdown or first-ever federal default.

The deal, announced by Trump on Twitter and in a statement by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, will restore the government’s ability to borrow to pay its bills past next year’s elections and build upon recent large budget gains for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck,” Trump tweeted, saying there will be no “poison pills” added to follow-up legislation. “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!”

The agreement is on a broad outline for $1.37 trillion in agency spending next year and slightly more in fiscal 2021. It would mean a win for lawmakers eager to return Washington to a more predictable path amid political turmoil and polarization, defense hawks determined to cement big military increases and Democrats seeking to protect domestic programs.

Nobody notched a big win, but both sides view it as better than a protracted battle this fall.

Pelosi and Schumer said the deal “will enhance our national security and invest in middle class priorities that advance the health, financial security and well-being of the American people.” Top congressional GOP leaders issued more restrained statements stressing that the deal is a flawed but achievable outcome of a government in which Pelosi wields considerable power.

“While this deal is not perfect, compromise is necessary in divided government,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

However, it also comes as budget deficits are rising to $1 trillion levels — requiring the government to borrow a quarter for every dollar the government spends — despite the thriving economy and three rounds of annual Trump budget proposals promising to crack down on the domestic programs that Pelosi is successfully defending now. It ignores warnings from deficit and debt scolds who say the nation’s fiscal future is unsustainable and will eventually drag down the economy.

“This agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington advocacy group. “It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”

A push by the White House and House GOP forces for new offsetting spending cuts was largely jettisoned, though Pelosi, D-Calif., gave assurances about not seeking to use the follow-up spending bills as vehicles for aggressively liberal policy initiatives.

The head of a large group of House GOP conservatives swung against the deal.

“No new controls are put in place to constrain runaway spending, and a two-year suspension on the debt limit simply adds fuel to the fire,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Johnson, R-La. “With more than $22 trillion in debt, we simply cannot afford deals like this one.”

Fights over Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, other immigration-related issues and spending priorities will be rejoined on spending bills this fall that are likely to produce much the same result as current law. The House has passed most of its bills, using far higher levels for domestic spending. Senate measures will follow this fall, with levels reflecting the accord.

At issue are two separate but pressing items on Washington’s must-do agenda: increasing the debt limit to avert a first-ever default on U.S. payments and acting to set overall spending limits and prevent $125 billion in automatic spending cuts from hitting the Pentagon and domestic agencies with 10 percent cuts starting in January.

The threat of the automatic cuts represents the last gasp of a failed 2011 budget and debt pact between former President Barack Obama and then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that promised future spending and deficit cuts to cover a $2 trillion increase in the debt. But a bipartisan deficit “supercommittee” failed to deliver, and lawmakers were unwilling to live with the follow-up cuts to defense and domestic accounts. This is the fourth deal since 2013 to reverse those cuts.

Prospects for an agreement, a months-long priority of top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., became far brighter when Pelosi returned to Washington this month and aggressively pursued the pact with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin , who was anointed lead negotiator instead of more conservative options like acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or hardline Budget Director Russell Vought.

Mnuchin was eager to avert a crisis over the government’s debt limit. There’s some risk of a first-ever U.S. default in September, and that added urgency to the negotiations.

The pact would defuse the debt limit issue for two years, meaning that Trump or his Democratic successor would not have to confront the politically difficult issue until well into 2021.

Washington’s arcane budget rules give each side a way to paint the numbers favorably. Generally speaking, the deal would lock in place big increases won by both sides in a 2018 pact driven by the demands of GOP defense hawks and award future increases consistent with low inflation.

Pelosi and Schumer claimed rough parity between increases for defense and nondefense programs, but the veteran negotiator retreated on her push for a special carve-out for a newly reauthorized program for veterans utilizing private sector health care providers. Instead non-defense spending increases would exceed increases for the military by $10 billion over the deal’s two-year duration.

In the end, non-defense appropriations would increase by $56.5 billion over two years, giving domestic programs 4% increases on average in the first year of the pact, with a big chunk of those gains eaten up by veterans increases and an unavoidable surge for the U.S. Census. Defense would increase by $46.5 billion over those two years, with the defense budget hitting $738 billion next year, a 3% hike, followed by only a further $2.5 billion increase in 2021.

Trump retains flexibility to transfer money between accounts, which raises the possibility of attempted transfers for building border barriers. That concession angered the Senate’s top Appropriations Committee Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who said he has “many concerns” with a memorandum outlining the agreement that promised there will also be no “poison pills,” new policy “riders,” or bookkeeping tricks to add to the deal’s spending levels.

The results are likely to displease some on both sides, especially Washington’s weakening deficit hawks and liberals demanding greater spending for progressive priorities. But Pelosi and McConnell have longtime histories with the Capitol’s appropriations process and have forged a powerful alliance to deliver prior spending and debt deals.

The measure would first advance through the House this week and win the Senate’s endorsement next week before Congress takes its annual August recess. Legislation to prevent a government shutdown will follow in September.

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House finally passes overdue disaster relief funding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster aid bill has sailed through the House and headed to President Donald Trump for his expected signature, overcoming months of infighting, misjudgment and a feud between Trump and congressional Democrats.

Lawmakers gave the measure final congressional approval on Monday by 354-58 in the House’s first significant action after returning from a 10-day recess. It was backed by all 222 voting Democrats and 132 Republicans, including the GOP’s top leaders and many of its legislators from areas hit by hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires. Fifty-eight Republicans voted “no,” including many of the party’s most conservative members.

Trump hailed passage of the bill, tweeting, “Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy.” The Republican president also suggested, incorrectly, that the bill would now see action in the Senate. That chamber had already passed the bill by a sweeping 85-8 vote on its way out of Washington May 23, a margin that reflected a consensus that the bill is long overdue.

But conservative Republicans in the House held up the bill last week, objecting on three occasions to efforts by Democratic leaders to pass the bill by a voice vote requiring unanimity. They said the legislation — which reflects an increasingly permissive attitude in Washington on spending to address disasters that sooner or later hit every region of the country — shouldn’t be rushed through without a recorded vote.

Along the way, House and Senate old-timers seemed to outmaneuver the White House, though Trump personally prevailed upon Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., to drop a bid to free up billions of dollars for dredging and other harbor projects.

The measure was initially held up over a fight between Trump and Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico that seems long settled.

“Some in our government refused to assist our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico who are still recovering from a 2017 hurricane. I’m pleased we’ve moved past that,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “Because when disaster strikes, we shouldn’t let a ZIP code dictate our response.”

The measure also faced delays amid failed talks on Trump’s $4 billion-plus request to care for thousands of mostly Central American migrants being held at the southern border. The sides narrowed their differences but couldn’t reach agreement in the rush to go on recess, but everyone agrees that another bill will be needed almost immediately to refill nearly empty agency accounts to care for migrants.

“We must work together quickly to pass a bill that addresses the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border and provides law enforcement agencies with the funding they need,” said top Appropriations Committee Republican Kay Granger of Texas. “The stakes are high. There are serious — life or death — repercussions if the Congress does not act.”

The measure is largely the same as a version that passed the House last month. Republicans opposed it for leaving out the border funding.

Among the reasons was a demand by House liberals to block the Homeland Security Department from getting information from federal social welfare authorities to help track immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally who take migrant refugee children into their homes.

As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples. The measure is supported by the bipartisan party leadership in both House and Senate.

The legislation is also being driven by Florida and Georgia lawmakers steaming with frustration over delays in delivering help to farmers, towns and military bases slammed by hurricanes last fall. Flooding in Iowa and Nebraska this spring added to the coalition behind the measure, which delivers much of its help to regions where Trump supporters dominate.

The bill started out as a modest $7.8 billion measure passed in the last days of House GOP control. A $14 billion version advanced in the Democrat-led chamber in January and ballooned to $19.1 billion by the time it emerged from the floor last month, fed by new funding for community rehabilitation projects, Army Corps of Engineers water and flood protection projects, and rebuilding funds for several military bases, including Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

Many Republicans opposed funding to mitigate future disasters as part of rebuilding projects when Superstorm Sandy funding passed in 2013, only to embrace it now that areas such as suburban Houston need it. Democrats, for their part, held firm for what ended up as roughly $1.4 billion for Puerto Rico, letting Trump feud with the U.S. territory’s Democratic officials for weeks and deflecting political blame for stalling the bill.

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Congress subpoenas Trump’s tax returns

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is joined at right by Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., at a hearing on taxpayer noncompliance on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 9, 2019. Neal issued subpoenas for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Friday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A top House Democrat has issued subpoenas for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of next Friday to deliver them.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., issued the subpoenas Friday, just days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” as Supreme Court precedent requires.

Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the IRS “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’ tax-writing committees and that Ways and Means “has never been denied” a request.

The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multi-front battle over investigations into Trump and the administration has been refusing to comply across the board, refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and documents related to the testimony by former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

If Mnuchin and Rettig refuse to comply with the subpoenas, Neal is likely to file a lawsuit in federal court. He indicated earlier this week that he was leaning toward filing a court case immediately but changed course after meeting with lawyers for the House.

Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of IRS mandatory audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election.

In rejecting Neal’s request earlier this week, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.

Republicans say Neal is using the arcane 1924 law that empowers him to obtain any individual’s tax filing to play politics with Trump. Democrats also want to probe into Trump’s business dealings, particularly his business relationships with foreigners and to see who he owes money to.

“Your request is merely a means to access and make public the tax returns of a single individual for purely political purposes,” said ranking Ways and Means panel Republican Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material,” Neal said in a statement.

Trump has privately made clear he has no intention of turning over the much-coveted records. He is the first president since Watergate to decline to make his tax returns public, often claiming that he would release them if he was not under audit.

“What’s unprecedented is this secretary refusing to comply with our lawful … request. What’s unprecedented is a Justice Department that again sees its role as being bodyguard to the executive and not the rule of law,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “What’s unprecedented is an entire federal government working in concert to shield a corrupt president from legal accountability.”

But the president has told those close to him that the attempt to get his returns was an invasion of his privacy and a further example of what he calls the Democrat-led “witch hunt” — like Mueller’s Russia probe — meant to damage him.

Trump has repeatedly asked aides as to the status of the House request and has not signaled a willing to cooperate with Democrats, according to a White House official and two Republicans close to the White House.

He has linked the effort to the myriad House probes into his administration and has urged his team to stonewall all requests. He also has inquired about the “loyalty” of the top officials at the IRS, according to one of his advisers.

Trump has long told confidants that he was under audit and therefore could not release his taxes. But in recent weeks, he has added to the argument, telling advisers that the American people elected him once without seeing his taxes and would do so again, according to the three officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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