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Trump says he won't budge on shutdown without border wall money

A deal to fund shuttered government departments still seemed out of reach Wednesday, the fifth day of the partial shutdown


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President Donald Trump said he won’t relent on the partial government shutdown unless Congress funds his proposed border wall, and wouldn’t say whether he’d accept less than $5 billion for the project.

“Whatever it takes,” he told reporters accompanying him Wednesday on an unannounced visit to US troops deployed at an air base in Iraq. “We’re going to have a wall. We’re going to have safety.”

A deal to fund shuttered government departments still seemed out of reach Wednesday, the fifth day of the partial shutdown. The Republican House leadership informed members not to expect any votes on Thursday, with no indication that votes will be scheduled Friday. The new Congress begins on Jan. 3 with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi appearing to have secured enough votes from her party to become speaker.

Trump blamed Pelosi of California for prolonging the shutdown.

“Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck,” Trump said, referring to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “And Chuck wants to have this done, I really believe that. But she’s calling the shots, and she’s calling them because she wants the votes and probably if they do something she’s not going to get the votes and she’s not going to speaker of the House and that would not be good for her.”

The House, while still under Republican control, passed a bill that includes more than $5 billion for the wall, which would be built along the US-Mexico border, but it didn’t have enough support in the Senate. Democrats have held firm in their opposition to giving Trump money for the wall, and there’s been no public indication that Pelosi risks an erosion of Democratic support over the negotiations.

Trump declined to say whether he would accept $2 billion for new fencing, as is said to have proposed to Schumer. “I’m not going to talk about it now,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence is said to have proposed $2.1 billion for new border barriers in an offer to Democrats, along with $400 million for other Trump immigration priorities.

Congressional Republicans were still waiting to hear an counteroffer from Democrats to Pence’s proposal, according to a GOP aide.

Matt Schlapp, head of the American Conservative Union and a White House ally, said the standoff won’t be any easier to solve with Pelosi presiding over the House of Representatives.

“I don’t believe that there’s a deal in the near term,” Schlapp said in a phone interview. “Do I think the dynamics are going to change much come the new year? I do not.”

Schlapp said there could be a way to get congressional Republicans to agree to a bill like the Senate passed last week that provides temporary funding at current levels, but Trump would look for other ways to fund the wall on the southern border. Pelosi previously reminded the White House that any attempt to “reprogram” government funds -- that is, use resources for a purpose other than that which was appropriated -- would have to be approved by Congress.

Schlapp said the chances that Republicans would put up enough votes to override a presidential veto “are pretty much nil.”

“The 2020 election has already started,” he said. “It is all about the wall, it’s all about border security, it’s all about promises of 2016 that the Democrats oppose mightily and it’s going to be a very interesting year.”

Next Steps

  • Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have been negotiating with the Trump administration. Once they reach agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll seek a vote on the deal.
  • If the shutdown lasts past Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House, Pelosi, who is in line to become speaker, said the chamber will pass a spending bill to reopen the government -- without money for a wall.

Key Impacts

  • The shutdown, which began Saturday, affects nine of 15 federal departments, dozens of agencies and hundreds of thousands of workers.
  • Among the departments without funding are: Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Treasury. Independent agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, are also affected.
  • The departments whose funding lapsed represent about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in government discretionary spending for fiscal year 2019.
  • An estimated 400,000 federal employees will work without pay and 350,000 will now be furloughed, according to a congressional Democratic aide.
  • The remaining parts of the government, including the Defense Department, Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, were already funded and won’t be affected by the shutdown, nor will mandatory entitlement programs like Medicare payments.

First Published: Thu, December 27 2018. 07:32 IST