Trump de­mands bor­der wall fund­ing in cru­cial bud­get bill

Democrats re­act with new warn­ing of shut­down

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The White House said Thurs­day that it wants to see money for Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall in­cluded in the spend­ing bill Congress must pass next week — a de­mand that Democrats said sours ne­go­ti­a­tions and makes a govern­ment shut­down more likely.

The de­mands mark a re­ver­sal for the administration, which had been say­ing it found enough money to build pro­to­types this year and wouldn’t need a ma­jor in­fu­sion of cash un­til next year.

But White House Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day that the wall and the money for more immigration agents are pri­or­i­ties.

“We know there are a lot of peo­ple on the Hill, es­pe­cially in the Demo­cratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the elec­tion. And the pres­i­dent should, I think, at least have the op­por­tu­nity to fund one of his high­est pri­or­i­ties in the first fund­ing bill un­der his administration,” Mr. Mul­vaney said.

The White House is­sued its de­mand just days af­ter Democrats in­sisted that the spend­ing bill in­clude bil­lions of dol­lars to

prop up Oba­macare. Demo­cratic aides sig­naled that they wouldn’t ac­cept a bill with­out the cost-shar­ing pay­ments in­tended to keep in­sur­ers in­vested in the health care law.

With Mr. Mul­vaney’s de­mand, both sides now ap­pear to be en­trench­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing had been mov­ing smoothly un­til the administration moved in with a heavy hand,” said Matt House, a spokesman for Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat. “Not only are Democrats op­posed to the wall, there is sig­nif­i­cant Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion as well.”

Congress is once again on the clock, rac­ing an April 28 dead­line for pass­ing a fund­ing bill to last the rest of the fis­cal year, which ends Sept. 30. With­out a bill, the govern­ment would face a par­tial shut­down end­ing nonessen­tial ser­vices.

The Trump White House will be­gin is­su­ing plans to agen­cies Fri­day in prepa­ra­tion for a shut­down.

It would be the sec­ond shut­down in four years. In 2013, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans or­ches­trated a shut­down to try to stop fund­ing of Oba­macare. That 16-day shut­down ended af­ter Repub­li­cans con­ceded.

Democrats are con­vinced that Repub­li­cans would be blamed for a shut­down this time as well. As the mi­nor­ity party, though, Democrats would play the big­ger role in mount­ing an ob­struc­tion.

Mr. Trump, at a press con­fer­ence Thurs­day, said he is not an­gling for a shut­down.

“As far as keep­ing the govern­ment open, I think we want to keep the govern­ment open. Don’t you agree?” he told re­porters.

Mr. Trump promised a bor­der wall dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion campaign and as­serted that Mex­ico would pay for it. He now ac­knowl­edges that U.S. tax­pay­ers will foot the bill up­front.

Some law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton have ques­tioned whether a wall is needed. Dur­ing the first two months of Mr. Trump’s administration, there has been an as­tound­ing drop in the flow of peo­ple at­tempt­ing to jump the south­west­ern bor­der.

Trump administration of­fi­cials take credit for the drop, say­ing the pres­i­dent’s get-tough rhetoric has changed the cal­cu­la­tions of would-be mi­grants from Latin Amer­ica, but they in­sist the wall is needed to make sure those gains are main­tained.

“It’s ab­so­lutely essen­tial that we build a wall,” Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly said as he toured the bor­der in El Paso, Texas, on Thurs­day with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

Mr. Kelly said a wall must be com­bined with tech­nol­ogy and agents to back it up.

His de­part­ment has found $20 mil­lion in fund­ing that it will use to build wall pro­to­types. Bids were due ear­lier this month, and of­fi­cials say test­ing will take place this sum­mer in San Diego.

The pro­to­types have to be at least 18 feet high, though 30 feet is the pre­ferred height, and should be able to with­stand breach­ing at­tempts for up to four hours, ac­cord­ing to the con­tract­ing doc­u­ments. The wall also must look im­pos­ing, the doc­u­ments said.

Se­nate Democrats this week re­leased a re­port say­ing the wall could stretch 1,827 miles, or most of the way across the 1,950-mile bor­der, at a cost of nearly $70 bil­lion. Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said un­til they de­cide on a fi­nal de­sign and lo­ca­tions, they can’t be­gin to make an es­ti­mate — though they said the Democrats’ fig­ures were base­less ex­trap­o­la­tions.

One immigration an­a­lyst said the administration had been tak­ing a lowkey ap­proach to wall fund­ing un­til early this week, when it sud­denly be­came a pri­or­ity in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

It could be a bar­gain­ing chip de­signed to counter Democrats, who just last week in­sisted that the Oba­macare money be in­cluded.

Mr. Mul­vaney said nei­ther he nor Mr. Trump is en­thused about the Oba­macare money but that they could ac­cept it if Democrats are will­ing to deal on Repub­li­can pri­or­i­ties.

“If it’s im­por­tant enough to the Democrats, we’d be happy to talk to them about in­clud­ing that in sort of some type of com­pro­mise,” the bud­get di­rec­tor told AP.

Mr. Trump’s immigration plans have been among the most con­tro­ver­sial is­sues of his young administration.

Im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists this week com­plained that his agents de­ported an il­le­gal im­mi­grant Dreamer, 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who was sup­posed to be pro­tected un­der Mr. Obama’s 2012 de­por­ta­tion amnesty.

Mr. Kelly, speak­ing at the bor­der, said Mr. Montes was de­ported back to Mex­ico af­ter break­ing terms of the amnesty, known of­fi­cially as De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Arrivals, or DACA.

“There was a time in his life that this in­di­vid­ual was a DACA res­i­dent, but he gave that up by his behavior and his il­le­gal ac­tions. He’s no longer cov­ered by the DACA ar­range­ment,” Mr. Kelly said.

The sec­re­tary didn’t spec­ify those il­le­gal ac­tions, but his de­part­ment this week said Mr. Montes had amassed sev­eral con­vic­tions for driv­ing with­out a li­cense and one con­vic­tion for shoplift­ing. In ad­di­tion, Mr. Montes left the U.S. with­out per­mis­sion, which was a vi­o­la­tion of DACA.

The young man’s de­fend­ers, though, said the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment is fab­ri­cat­ing its case.

“Right now, Trump agents are ly­ing about Juan’s story. They are smear­ing his name,” said Greisa Martinez Rosa, ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor for United We Dream, a group that de­fends DACA re­cip­i­ents.

She com­pared Mr. Montes’s de­por­ta­tion to race-re­lated po­lice slay­ings. “What they are do­ing to Juan is the same thing abu­sive law en­force­ment do to peo­ple of color who are killed,” she said.

ON THE LINE: At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions toured ports of en­try in El Paso, Texas, on Thurs­day as Pres­i­dent Trump de­manded fund­ing for a bor­der wall in a spend­ing bill that must pass next week.

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