Congress heads to­ward fight over bor­der wall

The Citizens' Voice - - NATION - BY LISA MASCARO AND MATTHEW DALY

WASH­ING­TON — Congress is head­ing to­ward a post­elec­tion show­down over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s wall along the U.s.-mex­ico bor­der, as GOP lead­ers sig­nal they’re will­ing to en­gage in hard­ball tac­tics that could spark a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down and the pres­i­dent revs up midterm crowds for the wall, a cen­ter­piece of his 2016 cam­paign and a top White House pri­or­ity.

Trump is promis­ing vot­ers at ral­lies across the coun­try that Repub­li­cans will bring tougher bor­der se­cu­rity in cam­paign speeches that echo those that pro­pelled him to of­fice two years ago. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-wis., promised a “big fight” over the bor­der wall money and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell, R-KY., has not ruled out a mini-shut­down as GOP lead­ers look to help Trump “get what he’s look­ing for” on the wall.

“Democrats want to abol­ish Amer­ica’s bor­ders and al­low drugs and gangs to pour into our coun­try,” Trump said with­out ev­i­dence Wed­nes­day dur­ing a swing through Erie.

“Right af­ter the elec­tion we’re do­ing some­thing very strong on the wall,” Trump added Thurs­day in an in­ter­view on “Fox & Friends.”

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 would not 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 De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, 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 full-fledged 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, far short of the $5 bil­lion the White House is seek­ing as part of a $25 bil­lion, five-year plan to com­plete the project.

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’s toured the south­ern bor­der this 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 min­ishut­down.

“We’ve got a lot of work left to do,” he said in an AP News­mak­ers in­ter­view. “That episode, if it oc­curs, would be in that por­tion of the gov­ern­ment that we haven’t funded.”

Asked how much money Congress would try to se­cure for the bor­der wall, Mccon­nell said, “We’re go­ing to try to help (Trump) get what he’s look­ing for.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks as he re­views bor­der wall pro­to­types in San Diego in March.

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