Whether the federal government shuts down Friday could hinge on whether Congress will include funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall in legislation to keep the government funded.
Trump and administration officials have spent recent days talking up the possibility of including funding for a wall, which could set up a serious showdown with Democrats and even members of his own party as the clock ticks toward a shutdown.
Asked by The Associated Press on Friday whether or not he would sign a bill that did not include funding for the wall, Trump was noncommittal.
“I don’t know yet,” Trump said. “People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall. My base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall.”
The president also took to Twitter over the weekend and on Monday to lay the groundwork for a push to find the wall.
“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. He followed those comments up with a tweetstorm on Monday about the importance of the wall.
“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” Trump continued.
Administration officials made the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows, sounded a more cautious tone on including border-wall funding in the spending bill.
Chief of staff Reince Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that if “there’s enough as far as flexibility for the border wall and border security” in the spending bill, the administration would “be OK with that.”
On the other hand, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump “has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall” and that funding for the wall is a vital element of the president’s negotiations on the shutdown.
“So I would suspect, he’ll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding,” Kelly said.
Also, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney proposed a deal: The Trump administration would be willing to include in the bill $US1 in funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which help mitigate losses for insurers, for every $US1 in funding for the wall.
“We’d offer them $US1 of CSR payments for $US1 of wall payments. Right now that’s the offer that we’ve given to our Democratic colleagues,” Mulvaney said.
Trump also seemed to hint at this idea in a tweet on Sunday.
“Obamacare is in serious trouble,” Trump tweeted. “The Dems need big money to keep it going – otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”
Democrats, however, blasted the flotation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said the White House’s Obamacare for border wall suggestion was a “gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans.”
“The US government is supposed to take care of its citizens and, according to the President, Mexico is supposed to pay for the wall,” a spokesperson for Schumer said. “If the administration would drop their 11th hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans oppose, Congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal.”
While Schumer and Democrats cannot block a funding bill alone, budget hawks in Congress’ conservative factions, like the House Freedom Caucus, could balk at increasing the deficit in order to fund the wall.
Given the GOP’s inability to pass their overhaul of Obamacare — the American Health Care Act — due to intraparty disagreements, the passage of the spending bill remains in question. Thomas Block, Washington policy analyst at Fundstrat, described the problem in a note to clients on Monday:
“In the House, there is a group consisting of Tea Party and Freedom Caucus Republicans who believe that almost any spending bill is too large for them to support. Therefore, Speaker Ryan is likely going to need some Democratic support to get a bill passed. The problem is that no Democrats will support a bill that contains the President’s stated priorities. Furthermore, many Republicans want to use the spending bill to stop all funding for Planned Parenthood, a clear poison pill as far as most Democrats are concerned.”