Trump, Pelosi, Schumer spar in Oval Office
Prodded by conservatives eager for a last stand with a Republican majority and President Donald Trump’s support, House Republicans voted Thursday night for a spending measure with $5.7 billion border wall funding, moving the government close to a partial government shutdown.
The Senate, which passed a year-end spending bill without the big wall funding piece on a voice vote Wednesday, is expected to take up the bill Friday — without much hope of passing it. About 25 percent of the federal government would be out of money Friday night unless Trump signs a spending bill into law.
Both bills would fund nine Cabinet agencies and several smaller departments through Feb. 8. and avert a partial government shutdown.
The House version added $5.7 billion in funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall after angry backlash from conservatives on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, led by North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows. Trump vowed Thursday not to sign a bill without the extra money.
“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security. Has to. Not for political purposes, but for our country, for the safety of our community,” Trump said during a White House event Thursday afternoon. He was scheduled to leave Friday for Florida, where he planned to spend the holidays, but is expected to remain in Washington if there is a shutdown.
The bill, which passed 217-185, also included $7.8 billion for disaster relief. No Democrat voted for the measure and eight Republicans voted against it.
Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and other House conservatives saw the bill as their last best chance for years to get significant funding for the wall, because Democrats will run the House after Jan. 3.
Meadows and fellow members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus took to the House floor late Wednesday, demanding that the House include the money.
The $5 billion figure, Meadows said, comes from the amount that can be responsibly spent in one year. Conservatives argue that House Republican leadership has backed down on a wall fight at least three times this year — and they demanded that the Republican majority make a stand this time.
“Mr. President, we’re going to back you up. If you veto this bill we’ll be there,” Meadows said, concluding remarks after a dozen House Freedom Caucus members spoke on the House floor Wednesday night. “But more importantly the American people will be there. They’ll be there to support you. Let’s build the wall.”
Those speeches, combined with criticism from usually friendly conservative media pundits, seemed to change Trump’s mind.
Trump had signaled a willingness to sign the Senate-passed version and avoid a shutdown. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, blamed Meadows and others for changing Trump’s mind. Meadows, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan and several other House Republicans, met with Trump at the White House on Thursday.
“Unfortunately President Trump was attacked (Thursday) morning and (Wednesday) night by the hard right and, fearful, he backed off his commitment to sign this bill,” Schumer said.
He accused Trump of “plunging the country into chaos,” citing a big drop Thursday in the stock market and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
“And now President Trump is throwing a temper tantrum and creating the Trump shutdown of the government,” Schumer said.
It wasn’t just the most conservative House members who fought against the measure, known as a continuing resolution or CR, without border security funding.
“This is about keeping America safe. This is not a complicated vote. It’s about whether or not we are going to stand for border security in this country,” said Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana. “... You’re either for border security or you’re against border security.”
Trump faced similar conservative blowback in late March after signing a $1.3 trillion spending bill that kept the government open, but vowed not to sign another stopgap. Much of the criticism at that time was about runaway federal spending. That bill included $1.6 billion for border security and a huge boost for defense spending.