Short-term spend­ing bill passed, but fight over im­mi­gra­tion looms

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI AND STEPHEN DINAN

Congress passed a short­term spend­ing bill Thurs­day to keep the gov­ern­ment fully open through Dec. 21, giv­ing law­mak­ers two more weeks to find a so­lu­tion to Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­mand for $5 bil­lion for his border wall plans.

More than 70 per­cent of ba­sic gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing the De­fense Depart­ment, is al­ready funded for all of fis­cal 2019, but Congress has failed to pass seven bills cover­ing the re­main­ing de­part­ments and agen­cies such as NASA, the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment and Home­land Se­cu­rity.

With­out ac­tion, those de­part­ments will now go into a par­tial shut­down just be­fore Christ­mas.

Law­mak­ers say they could quickly reach deals on most of the spend­ing, but the big hur­dle is home­land se­cu­rity, and Mr. Trump’s de­mand for a boost in border wall money from $1.6 bil­lion in 2018 to the $5 bil­lion re­quest for next year.

The pres­i­dent has sug­gested he would be will­ing to force a shut­down un­less he gets the cash he’s seek­ing, and Democrats said they’re not will­ing to deal.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi flatly re­jected the sug­ges­tion of com­bin­ing border wall money with a plan to grant per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus to “Dream­ers,” im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren — a long­time goal of Democrats — say­ing she’s not will­ing to link the two.

“They’re two dif­fer­ent sub­jects,” she said.

She’s un­der pres­sure from His­panic Democrats not to al­low any money for Mr. Trump’s border wall in the bill, cre­at­ing a weird se­man­tics de­bate over the pres­i­dent’s wall ver­sus border fenc­ing, which Demo­cratic lead­ers say they could sup­port, to some ex­tent.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer said he would ac­cept up to $1.6 bil­lion in new money — but said it “can­not be used to con­struct any part of Pres­i­dent Trump’s 30-foot­tall con­crete border wall. It can only be used for fenc­ing, us­ing tech­nol­ogy cur­rently de­ployed at the border, and only where the ex­perts say fenc­ing is ap­pro­pri­ate and makes sense as a se­cu­rity fea­ture.”

He said that’s what’s writ­ten into the Se­nate’s cur­rent ver­sion of the home­land se­cu­rity spend­ing bill. The House ver­sion, mean­while, has the full $5 bil­lion pres­i­den­tial re­quest.

Mr. Schumer said if Mr. Trump won’t agree to ac­cept the Se­nate’s $1.6 bil­lion ver­sion, then Congress should in­stead pass a “con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion” keep­ing over­all home­land se­cu­rity fund­ing at 2018 lev­els for the next year.

Since the 2018 bill had $1.6 bil­lion for border se­cu­rity money, in­clud­ing fenc­ing, it would mean some money for Mr. Trump, but nowhere near what he’s hop­ing for.

Sen. Jerry Mo­ran, Kansas Repub­li­can, doubted Mr. Trump would go for the con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion ap­proach.

“Noth­ing’s go­ing to be any eas­ier two weeks from now than it is to­day. The is­sue is ex­actly the same — is there [an] agree­ment that can be had be­tween the Democrats in the Congress and Pres­i­dent Trump on border se­cu­rity?” he said.

Sen. Roy Blunt, Mis­souri Repub­li­can, said he wanted to see a deal in­volv­ing the Dream­ers and wall fund­ing — but he said Mr. Trump ap­pears to have backed away from that plan.

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