Border wall fight could come soon
WASHINGTON — Congress is heading toward a postelection showdown over President Donald Trump’s border wall.
GOP leaders are signaling they’re willing to engage in hardball tactics that could spark a partial government shutdown, and the president is revving up midterm crowds for the wall, a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and a top White House priority.
At rallies across the country, Trump is promising voters that Republicans will bring tougher border security.
Leaving for a rally in Richmond, Ky., told reporters Saturday that migrant families might think twice about illegally crossing the border if they fear they’ll be separated by the U.S. government.
In Kentucky, he told his rally crowd: “We have people trying to come in like never before. If they feel there will be separation, then they won’t come.”
The president contended that some “really bad people”
are using others’ children to pose as their own while attempting to enter the country.
“They haven’t known the children for 20 minutes and they grab children and they use them to come into our country,” Trump said, without offering evidence.
“I want a lot of people to come in,” but they must do so legally, he added.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the White House was reconsidering a policy known as “zero tolerance” that caused nearly 3,000 children to be taken from their caregivers and placed in federal custody after they were apprehended crossing the border earlier this year.
Members of Congress of both parties criticized the policy, and the plight of the children — held in detention centers run by government contractors for weeks or months apart from their parents or guardians — caused broad outrage among the American public.
Trump issued an order in July to end the practice.
Trump said immigration is a “tricky” issue, and that his comments weren’t being influenced by the midterm elections.
“You have to do the right thing whether there’s an election or not,” he said.
Among those traveling with Trump to Kentucky was senior adviser Stephen Miller, the main architect of the administration’s approach on immigration.
In Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., promised a “big fight” over the border wall money and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hasn’t ruled out a mini-shutdown as GOP leaders aim to help Trump “get what he’s looking for” on the wall.
Republicans steered clear of shutdown politics ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election.
They know voters have soured on government dysfunction, hold low views of Congress and are unlikely to reward Republicans — as the party in control of Congress and the White House — if post offices, national parks and other services are shuttered.
GOP leaders struck a deal with Democrats earlier this year to fund most of the government into next year.
They presented their case to Trump in a White House meeting in September — complete with photos of the border wall under construction.
Trump, who previously warned he wouldn’t sign another big budget bill into law without his border funds, quietly signed the legislation before the start of the new budget year Oct. 1.
Left undone, however, is the portion of the government that funds the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the border, and a few other agencies.
They’re now running on stopgap funds set to expire Dec. 7.
The deadline sets the stage for a new round of budget brawls.
“We intend on having a fullfledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border and we will have a big fight about it,” Ryan said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Asked if he made a commitment to Trump for a shutdown over wall funds, Ryan said blame would fall to Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress and largely oppose increased funding for the wall.
Trump promised during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall — a claim Mexico rejects and Republicans routinely ignore.
“We have a commitment to go fight for securing the border and getting these policy objectives achieved,” Ryan said.
House Republicans approved $5 billion for Trump’s wall, including physical barriers and technology along the U.S. southern border, in a key committee, although it comes without Democratic support.
A bipartisan bill being considered in the Senate allocates $1.6 billion for the wall.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., upped the stakes Friday by introducing legislation for the full $25 billion in border funds as he bids for Ryan’s job as the speaker retires.
McCarthy toured the southern border last week to make the case for the wall as he seeks to shore up support from conservatives skeptical of his possible leadership promotion.
McConnell predicted a “lively” lame-duck session and didn’t close the door on the possibility of a mini-shutdown.
Iliana Nieves, left, hugs family members after she was briefly reunited with her mother in Mexico after the Border Patrol in New Mexico opened the wall for such reunions.