Shutdown fight looms over border wall
Democrats: GOP to blame for budget woes
White House officials Monday refused to guarantee that they would avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week, although they continued to say they were confident a deal was in reach and Congress would pass a new spending bill in time.
“I can’t guarantee anything,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing when pressed to assure Americans the government would avoid a second shutdown in four years.
All sides are racing a Friday deadline for passing a new spending bill, with congressional Democrats saying negotiations were going fine until the White House got deeply involved last week.
Democrats first roiled talks earlier this month when they insisted money for a controversial part of Obamacare, which Republicans are challenging in court, be funded as part of the stopgap spending bill. Money has never been included for the funds before now.
President Trump then responded by demanding that money for his proposed border wall be included, sparking feverish pushback from Democrats who oppose the wall.
“If the administration insists on funding for a wall in this bill, it will endanger the prospects of a bill passing and raise the prospects of a government shutdown,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, told colleagues in a floor speech Monday.
Democrats and some Republicans say Mr. Trump has yet to present them with a plan for his proposed wall, so it’s premature to fund it.
The administration has already won approval to shift $20 million in money around within Homeland Security to pay for prototypes of the wall to be built later this summer. It’s not clear how much more money can or would be spent in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Capitol Hill Republicans have shown no appetite for a shutdown showdown with Democrats, and the White House says it doesn’t want one either. But Democrats say one could happen, and are convinced the GOP will take the blame.
“I think it’s a much more realistic possibility than people recognize,” Rep. Brendan F. Boyle, Pennsylvania Democrat, told Fox Business.
Democrats say the GOP cannot pass a bill on its own, particularly with opposition expected from its right wing. That means Democratic votes will be required — giving them serious negotiating leverage.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin vouched for progress Monday, saying he was encouraged by a meeting with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and other senior officials on the negotiating team.
“The president is working hard to keep the government open and addressing various issues,” he said at the daily White House briefing.
Rep. Tom Cole, a moderate Republican from Oklahoma, downplayed the possibility of missing the deadline.
“No, I don’t think we’ll have a shutdown,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “We’re within striking distance of getting this done.”
Still, he said that getting a spending bill over the 60-vote hurdle in the narrowly divided Senate made it impossible for either side to score a 100-percent partisan victory — and that included the border wall.
“We can come back and get this at another point,” he said, adding that shutting down the government for funding the wall isn’t worth it.