Congress passed a short-term 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-foot-tall 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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