Tough choice for Trump if Congress
refuses border wall financing
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[August 29, 2017]
By Amanda Becker and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald
Trump is unlikely to win congressional support for funds he wants for a
proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall before an Oct. 1 deadline, meaning he
may have to choose between backing down on a key campaign promise or
shutting down the government.
The second option was a politically dangerous one before Hurricane
Harvey tore through southern Texas over the weekend and it now looks
At a campaign-style rally in Phoenix last week, Trump doubled down on
his earlier demands that Congress fund a Mexican border wall in
government spending legislation, adding a clear threat. "If we have to
close down our government, we’re building that wall," he told
Since then, lawmakers who were already struggling to hammer out a
stop-gap federal spending bill before Oct. 1 to avoid a shutdown have
had to factor in Trump's threat as well.
During his election campaign, Trump insisted Mexico would pay for the
construction of the wall, which experts said could cost about $22
billion and take more than three years to complete.
With Mexico refusing to pay, Trump has said since taking office in
January that the wall will initially need U.S. funding but that he will
find a way to make Mexico ultimately pay for it.
A government shutdown would result if Congress is unable to agree on a
spending deal or if Trump does not like the package and vetoes it. A
veto would put Trump in a dangerous position of rejecting a bill
approved by his own party.
"Shutting down the government would be a self-destructive act, not to
mention an act of political malpractice," Republican Representative
Charlie Dent said in an interview.
Republicans firmly control the House of Representatives, but have only a
narrow majority in the Senate, where at least eight Democratic votes
will be needed to pass a spending bill.
Democratic leaders firmly oppose the border wall and appear to be in no
mood to do Trump a favor by including funding now.
"Democrats aren’t feeling the heat over this,” Democratic strategist Jim
Manley said, adding that “no Democrat is going to be cowed” by Trump’s
threat to shut down the government.
Without Democratic support, current and former congressional aides from
both parties said they expected Senate Republican leader Mitch
McConnell, who has been sharply criticized by Trump in recent weeks, to
opt for a spending bill without wall funding to get legislation to the
Dent said he expected the Senate would "strip out" $1.6 billion that had
been set aside to start building the wall in a spending measure already
passed by the House, and send it back to that chamber for another vote.
Dent voted for the wall funding the first time but said he would approve
the spending measure without the wall money if that is what it takes to
keep the government open.
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President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in Washington,
U.S., August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Asked what Congress would do if Trump vetoes a spending bill, Dent
said: "We'll have to determine what our next steps will be, but I’m
hopeful he’ll sign the bill.”
A stop-gap spending bill would keep the government open for several
months with no major changes to spending programs while lawmakers
work out a longer-term deal. The U.S. Congress has relied heavily on
those short-term fixes - known as continuing resolutions - for many
Federal assistance for those affected by devastating floods
triggered by Harvey could be attached to a new continuing
But Trump said on Monday the hurricane recovery effort had not
caused him to reconsider the option of a government shutdown.
"I think it has nothing to do with it, really. I think this is
separate," he said at a news conference.
He said he hoped a government shutdown would not be needed but
declined to rule it out. "If it’s necessary, we’ll have to see.”
If Trump signs a short-term extension without wall funding, it could
delay the battle until December, when that legislation would likely
Trump also said on Monday that the border wall was "imperative" in
order to tackle drug trafficking and crime as well as illegal
The budget debate is also complicated by the need to finance support
for victims of Harvey, the worst storm to hit Texas in more than 50
years, and find a deal on increasing the federal debt ceiling, which
limits how much money the U.S. government can borrow.
One possible escape route for Trump could be separate legislation
for funding the wall. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the
Senate, has introduced legislation that would authorize $15 billion
over four years for border security. That would still need the
support of at least eight Senate Democrats.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh
and Peter Cooney)
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