Democrats re­ject new GOP plan to pay for wall


Con­gres­sional Democrats said Thurs­day they’re pre­pared to re­ject a new GOP plan to get Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump the money he’s de­mand­ing for his bor­der wall – es­ca­lat­ing the chances of a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down next week.

The new Re­pub­li­can plan would de­liver $5 bil­lion for Trump’s long­promised U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der wall by di­vid­ing the ex­pen­di­ture over two years – $2.5 bil­lion in 2019 and $2.5 bil­lion in 2020.

But Democrats, who have re­jected the idea of spend­ing $5 bil­lion on a wall Trump claimed Mex­ico would pay for, said split­ting the money up over two years did not make it more palat­able.

“No mat­ter how many years you spread it over, $5 bil­lion for Pres­i­dent Trump’s waste­ful wall is too much money,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the top Demo­crat on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. “While we are will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate on how best to se­cure our bor­der, we will never sup­port wast­ing tax dol­lars on a wall de­signed to gin up the Re­pub­li­can base.”

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and aides in the Se­nate also said the plan for $5 bil­lion over two years wouldn’t fly.

“He’s ask­ing the tax­pay­ers to give him money ... for some­thing when he gave his solemn word that tax­pay­ers wouldn’t have to pay, the Mex­i­cans would pay, and has threat­ened to shut down the gov­ern­ment in I guess an at­tempt to bail out the Mex­i­cans from his prom­ise,” said Sen. Pa­trick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee. “It doesn’t make much sense.”

Fund­ing for the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment and a hand­ful of other gov­ern­ment agen­cies ex­pires Dec. 7 at mid­night. Un­less Congress and Trump reach an agree­ment be­fore then, a par­tial shut­down would be­gin.

Such a shut­down would be lim­ited in scope since about 75 per­cent of the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the Pen­tagon, have al­ready been funded through next Septem­ber. But it would none­the­less dis­rupt the lives of thou­sands of fed­eral work­ers and im­pede im­por­tant func­tions across agen­cies.

Ear­lier this year, Se­nate Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans agreed on $1.6 bil­lion for the wall for 2019, and Democrats said that re­mained their po­si­tion. Pri­vately, Demo­cratic aides said that it could be pos­si­ble to ne­go­ti­ate a num­ber higher than $1.6 bil­lion – but that they would not agree to Trump’s $5 bil­lion ask after a midterm elec­tion where Democrats re­took con­trol of the House.

But GOP House and Se­nate lead­ers who have met with Trump in re­cent weeks say the pres­i­dent is adamant about get­ting $5 bil­lion. At the urg­ing of GOP lead­ers, Trump agreed to put off a fight over the wall un­til after the midterm elec­tions, and now he is de­ter­mined to get it while Re­pub­li­cans still re­tain con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress.

The White House blamed Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the top Se­nate Demo­crat, for the im­passe.

“An­other Schumer shut­down would not sur­prise any­one, it has be­come the new norm in Wash­ing­ton,” said Meghan Bur­ris, a spokes­woman for the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get. “Democrats would rather shut the gov­ern­ment down and leave mil­lions of Amer­i­cans less se­cure than work with the Ad­min­is­tra­tion to solve this unchecked cri­sis. It is ev­i­dent there is a need to se­cure the Na­tion’s bor­ders and the Pres­i­dent has made it clear that is his num­ber one pri­or­ity.”

Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Chair­man Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Thurs­day that he held out hope that Democrats would agree to $5 bil­lion over two years – though he of­fered no in­di­ca­tion of what he might of­fer them in re­turn. He said that Democrats, like Re­pub­li­cans, had pri­or­i­ties they wanted funded in the spend­ing bills that have yet to pass, which cover agen­cies in­clud­ing the Agri­cul­ture, In­te­rior and State de­part­ments in ad­di­tion to Home­land se­cu­rity.

“You know they have a lot in these bills. So do we,” Shelby said. “And I think most of them would want to pass our ap­pro­pri­a­tion bills. Now the ques­tion is are they will­ing to shut it down over this. We’re try­ing to avoid that.”

Democrats, how­ever, con­tend that if there is a shut­down next week, it will be Trump’s fault.

Speak­ing on the Se­nate floor Thurs­day, Schumer said Trump could ei­ther sign off on the $1.6 bil­lion deal agreed to in the Se­nate or sign a “con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion” that ex­tends gov­ern­ment fund­ing at its cur­rent lev­els.

“If Pres­i­dent Trump wants to throw a tem­per tantrum and shut down some de­part­ments and agen­cies over Christ­mas, that’s cer­tainly within his power, but he has two more sen­si­ble op­tions avail­able to him,” Schumer said. “It would be a shame if the coun­try suf­fered be­cause of a Trump tem­per tantrum.”


Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.


A U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Spe­cial Re­sponse Team of­fi­cer walks along a bor­der wall Sun­day in San Diego. Ear­lier this year, Se­nate Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans agreed on $1.6 bil­lion for the bor­der wall for 2019.

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