Trump, lawmakers scramble to avoid shutdown
U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Democratic leaders Tuesday in a final effort to secure border wall funding as part of a larger government spending package that must be passed by Dec. 21.
The funding marks the final legislative action of the Republican-controlled Congress and a must-pass bill to avert a partial government shutdown ahead of the holidays.
Both parties face a delicate balancing act tackling the latest fight over immigration with just weeks until control of the House of Representatives shifts to Democrats.
Trump will meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to see if there is room for compromise on his request for up to $5 billion in funding for the wall in fiscal year 2019. The meeting will be the first test of Trump’s ability to negotiate bipartisan deals following significant Democratic gains in November’s congressional midterm elections.
Trump and Pelosi initially expressed interest in working with each other on bills addressing infrastructure and prescription drug prices. But Pelosi — who is expected to become Speaker of the House when the new Congress is sworn in next month — rejected the possibility of compromise on border wall funding.
Democrats consider a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border “immoral, ineffective and expensive,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. She also made clear Democrats would not link a compromise on the border wall with a legislative solution addressing the legal status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, the more than 800,000 undocumented young people brought to the United States as children.
Compromise on a solution for DACA recipients stalled in Congress throughout 2018. The House failed to pass a bill after a group of Republicans organized an effort to defy House Speaker Paul Ryan and force the issue.
Pelosi proposed lawmakers pass the six funding bills that have already cleared key committee votes while funding the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that would oversee the border wall funding, on another temporary spending measure.
“I can’t imagine the president is willing to accept that,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Thursday.
Trump says the border wall with Mexico will stop an invasion of migrants from Central America into the United States.
“Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country loses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 4.
“The idea that they haven’t spent last year’s money and they’re demanding such a huge amount this year makes no sense at all,” Schumer said.
Trump and Republicans in a lame-duck Congress face a tough choice. Forcing the issue of the border wall will trigger a partial government shutdown just four days before Christmas.
Lawmakers will not relish the prospect of being trapped in Washington figuring out a solution. But some Republicans see the shutdown as an opportunity to slow Democratic momentum coming into the new year with a new legislative agenda. Democrats will not want to be blamed for a shutdown before they have even taken control of the House.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Pelosi and Schumer issued a joint statement saying Trump’s border wall proposal does not have sufficient support and he should not make it “an obstacle to bipartisan government.”
“Republicans still control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they have the power to keep the government open,” the statement said.