White House Appears Ready to Go to the Mat for Its Border Wall

Updated on
  • Government funding dries up Friday without new bill in place
  • OMB chief says Democrats hold national security hostage

Mulvaney Willing to Trade Health Payments for Wall Money

The White House appeared ready to go to the mat for its planned Mexican border wall in this week’s must-pass spending bill, setting up a clash with Democrats that may make a government shutdown at week’s end more likely.

“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” President Donald Trump said in previewing the budget fight on Twitter on Sunday. (MS-13 is a criminal gang of mostly Central American origin.) Mexico will pay for the wall “at a later date,” Trump said.

In a separate Twitter message, the president said Democrats need “big money” to keep Obamacare going -- something the administration has offered in return for border-wall funding.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said he expects money earmarked in the spending bill to be enough “to move forward” with Trump’s proposed wall. “We expect money for border security in this bill. And it ought to be,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

‘Don’t Know Yet’

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether Trump will sign a government-funding bill that doesn’t include money for the border wall, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, would only say, “We don’t know yet.”

Mulvaney accused Democrats of being obstructionists on the funding and holding national security hostage.

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s number-two Democrat, on CNN’s “State of the Union” said that for Trump to consider shutting down the government over border wall funding “would be the height of irresponsibility.” And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on NBC that the wall “is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise.”

The office of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto reiterated Sunday in a statement to Bloomberg News that Mexico will not pay for the wall.

Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republican colleagues on Saturday that a spending bill will be ready in time to avert a potential government shutdown at week’s end and keep agencies running and financed through the end of September.

Ryan provided few details of that bill, though, during a conference call with rank-and-file members, according to three members who participated.

No Wall Discussion

There was no discussion on the roughly 20-minute call of how any deal on a bill to keep government funded until the Oct. 1 start of a new fiscal year would resolve unsettled issues, including whether money would be provided for Trump’s wall.

On CNN on Sunday, John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he suspects that Trump “will be insistent on the funding” for the wall as part of negotiations to keep the government open move ahead. “It goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall,” he said.

Yet, the Republican congressional members said Ryan insisted that a bill will be finalized between Congress and the White House before an existing spending measure expires and government funding dries up after April 28. Trump will mark his 100th day in office a day later.

Neither the speaker nor several top lieutenants, who also spoke during the call, brought up the possible need for a shorter, stop-gap version of a spending bill to allow more time for negotiating, said the members, who spoke on the condition they not be identified so they could speak freely.

Do Something

Ryan expressed urgency during the call for Republicans to show they can get something accomplished -- even telling members their future as a majority party will depend on it. Ryan said Americans expect Republicans -- who control both chambers of Congress as well as the White House -- to govern, and that they’re entering a pivotal time, the members said.

Congressional Democrats, whose votes would be needed in the Senate and possibly also the House to pass such a spending bill, have said they won’t support money for Trump’s border wall.

Ryan said details of a spending bill deal would be unveiled when House members arrive back in Washington on Tuesday after their two-week spring recess.

All three members said Ryan made clear he didn’t want their discussions to be publicized. At one point, they said, the speaker explained his reluctance to lay out specifics because he didn’t trust that members of his own conference weren’t recording the meeting or even streaming live audio.

— With assistance by Mark Niquette, Ben Brody, Ben Bartenstein, and Nacha Cattan

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