President Donald Trump could avoid a federal government shutdown on his 100th day in office if he backs off his insistence on money for a border wall, Democrats say.
With the clock ticking for congressional budget writers to avoid a partial government shutdown, House of Representatives and Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that a deal was achievable – without White House interference.
“Instead of risking government shutdown by shoving this wall down Congress’ and American people’s throats, the president ought to just let us come to an agreement,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters, noting that even Republicans have questions about Trump’s proposal for a wall at the border with Mexico. “It’s my view that if the president stepped out of it, we could get a budget done by Friday.”
“We’re happy to debate this wall in regular order down the road once he has a plan,” Schumer said. “There’s no plan now. He just says ‘Build it.’ ”
The wall has emerged as a major stumbling block in talks to reach an agreement before the budget bill expires at midnight on Friday. The administration is asking for $1.5 billion to start building a wall along the U.S. southern border. It has support from Trump’s base, which notes that the short-term spending bill is the first in years not to face a veto threat from former President Barack Obama.
“If congressional Republicans fail to deliver the wall via a funding vehicle this year, it will portend badly for the 2018 midterms and endanger members’ re-election hopes,” said Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, which has launched BuildWallNow.org to urge Congress to fund the wall.
Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted that the proposed border wall would be “a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!”
Over the weekend, he complained that 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,” a reference to the international gang that was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by immigrants fleeing El Salvador’s civil war.
Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for the wall, but he sought to explain Sunday that “eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.”
Schumer noted that Trump’s plan has its critics, including Republican lawmakers along the border. He noted that estimates to pay for the wall have suggested it could cost as much as $70 billion.
“We’d rather see that money used in other ways,” he said.
Democrats are open to other forms of border security, said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She called the wall “immoral, ineffective, unwise” and said it would deter spending on other needs such as education or infrastructure.
“If we have needs for technology or the rest to help protect our border, let’s see what that is,” Pelosi said.
Negotiators are within “striking distance” of a deal and a shutdown is unlikely, said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a top House appropriator.
He said he wouldn’t risk the wall money on the short-term spending bill: “There’s another way, another time, to get this,” Cole said on MSNBC. “The most important thing is to make sure the military is funded, to make sure the critical institutions of government are funded and to make sure you don’t have a shutdown while you’ve got a Republican president, a Republican Senate and a Republican House.”