Trump Softens on Border Wall Demands; Congress Moves Towards Stopgap Bill
President Trump on Wednesday vowed to get his border wall built “one way or the other” following Democratic lawmakers refusal to provide him with $5 billion for its construction:
“In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death…We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall.”
Earlier this month, Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t include $5 billion for border security in its year-end spending bill. Democratic lawmakers offered to include $1.3 billion for border security, but not necessarily for the construction of a new wall.
Trump said it wasn’t enough.
Days later, Trump backed down from his demand and Republicans proposed a bill including $1.6 billion for border fencing and $1 billion for other immigration-related matters.
Democrats rejected the proposal.
Lawmakers now have less than two days to sort out the final 25% of government funding. Failure to pass a spending bill by midnight on December 21st will result in a partial shutdown.
Agencies that could be forced to send employees home without pay include: the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, Transportation, Homeland Security, and State departments and NASA.
The shutdown would not affect HHS, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, the Pentagon, or the US Postal Service.
“There’s certainly bipartisan support for avoiding a shutdown,” noted Senator Mitch McConnell, who this week introduced a continuing resolution that would keep federal agencies up and running until February 8th.
“We need the government to remain open for the American people,” he added, vowing not to end 2018 how it began: “With another government shutdown because of Democrats’ allergy to sensible policies.”
Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said they would support McConnell’s continuing resolution.
If it passes, the short-term bill will be another reminder of Trump’s ongoing failure to secure funding for one of his key campaign promises: to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
On Wednesday, Trump reiterated his earlier suggestion that money saved via the newly-negotiated (but unsigned) United States Mexico Canada Agreement could go towards wall construction.
“Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA,” tweeted Trump. “Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!”
The Administration has also directed all Cabinet departments to look for money that could be legally redirected towards the wall.
Trump is clearly determined to get his wall built, but he knows that another shutdown – especially during the holidays – won’t help him during his re-election campaign. He’s also realizing that he doesn’t have much support from GOP lawmakers for wall funding at the $5 billion level.
In the meantime, Democrats seem willing to provide ample funding for border security (but not wall construction) in FY2019 and Trump seems convinced he can get money for his wall elsewhere.
As White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained, “There’s certainly a number of different funding sources that we’ve identified that we can use to couple with the money that would be given to us through congressional appropriations that would help us get to that $5 billion.”