The odds of a partial government shutdown appeared to increase this week as President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats remained far apart on a compromise on funding for a border wall.
Congress has left itself little time to pass a series of spending bills by Dec. 21. Even with the likelihood of adding days to the legislative session to wrap up year-end business, Republicans have not yet agreed among themselves how to proceed.
The president wants $5 billion to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, but Senate Democrats have said they would approve only $1.6 billion for border security. Spending bills in the Senate, where Republicans have a 51-49 majority, require 60 votes to pass, giving Democrats a significant role in the outcome. If the two sides fail to come to an agreement, about a quarter of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, would be left without funds to continue operating.
Trump engaged in a testy exchange over the wall proposal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during a White House meeting Tuesday, with the president vowing not to support any measure that does not include the funding he wants for the wall.
Schumer said he would offer two options to keep the government open, neither of which would include the $5 billion figure.
“Unfortunately, it was clear that the president is clinging to his position of billions of dollars for an unnecessary, ineffective border wall,” Schumer said Wednesday. “President Trump will soon realize that his position will not result in a wall, but will result in a Trump shutdown.”
Trump called the looming shutdown a sign he was being tough on illegal immigration.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
A long road of negotiations lies ahead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that senators should be prepared to work between Christmas and New Year’s to complete work on the budget and other outstanding issues. “Members should either prepare to cooperate and work together—or prepare for a long month,” he said. —Anne K. Walters