By Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan, and John Dawsey
March 15, 2017
President Donald Trump is heading toward a showdown with Capitol Hill Democrats over his border wall.
The White House is signaling to Capitol Hill leaders that he wants money to beef up the U.S. border with Mexico in a spending bill due by late April, according to several people familiar with the matter. The move would risk a government shutdown: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has warned that trying to jam money into a must-pass funding bill would be met with stern Democratic resistance.
The White House is trying to peruade GOP leaders to include $3 billion to $6 billion in a funding package for border security, Republican sources said. Some of that money would be used to construct the wall, but significant portions would go toward immigration and customs enforcement. Republicans believe the latter move would make it harder for Democrats to vote against.
But there are some divisions among Republicans as well. Many GOP lawmakers from border states are skeptical about how Trump would go about beefing up border defenses.
“I prefer to see a plan first before we start appropriating money,” said John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican. “We won’t just appropriate money and have the plan TBD. And I’ve got some questions.”
The White House is set to unveil a budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday along with an immediate spending request that will include billions for fighting the Islamic State. But the most controversial will be the money funding the border wall.
A White House official confirmed that the Trump administration will request that some money for the border wall be included in a must-pass government funding bill. The border financing would likely be attached to a spending bill to keep the government open through the end of September.
The request is likely to trigger a major battle between Trump and Democrats after the April 8 Easter recess. Without action, the government would shut down after April 28.
A senior GOP congressional aide said the party isn’t looking forward to a shutdown fight over the border wall, “but it looks like it probably is going to happen.”
The blame game has already begun on Capitol Hill as the two parties prepare for what could be a major confrontation less than 100 days into Trump’s presidency.
“If the Democrats want to shut it down, it will be their thing,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “I don’t believe they will.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, called jamming the border funding into a spending bill “foolish” and said the wall is “useless.” But he would not yet say that would be enough for Democrats to vote down a spending bill.
By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.
“I thought we were going to get a check from Mexico,” Leahy said. The wall will “accomplish nothing. That’s $30 billion that can’t go into cancer research, diabetes research and veterans care.”
Republicans and the White House believe that Democrats will not risk a shutdown over a relatively small amount of funding for a border wall, particularly since Schumer supported a bill to construct a wall last decade. The GOP believes Democratic voters are pro-government and that senators would ultimately balk at voting to shut down the government.
Schumer, however, said on Tuesday that any amount of border funding would amount to a “poison pill” and that Republicans “might be responsible for shutting the government down.” A day earlier, he and other Democratic leaders sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warning against the inclusion of border wall money in a government funding bill; McConnell said Tuesday he was “amused” by Schumer’s stance.
But Schumer will have a major role to play next month, because the GOP will need at least eight Democratic votes to pass any funding legislation in the Senate. And Senate Republicans aren’t yet fully committed to trying to jam through border funding if it can’t pass.
Cornyn said he will support “whatever we can get 60 votes for. That’s what it will take. I assume it will be a negotiated product.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com