GOP seeks to ram through Trump’s $5B wall demand

Faced with a conservative revolt and a change of heart from an unpredictable president, House GOP leaders on Thursday altered course and will try to ram through a government spending bill that includes $5.7 billion for President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE's wall and border security.

The new funding package would add two things to the stopgap measure that cleared the Senate by voice vote Wednesday night: $5 billion for President Trump’s wall on the Mexican border and another $700 million for border security; and $8.7 billion in emergency disaster aid for wildfires, hurricane damage and flooding.

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The House Rules Committee met Thursday afternoon to launch the altered proposal, quickly adopting the rule governing the bill. And House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph Scalise20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure This week: Democrats revive net neutrality fight MORE (R-La.) and his vote-counting team began whipping members to gauge support for the new package.

While some Republicans voiced confidence, others remained skeptical it has the necessary support to pass. The $5 billion is a non-starter for Democrats and it is also opposed by a number of GOP lawmakers.

Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure Ex-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group MORE (R-Fla.) told The Hill he is opposed to the new package even though it would contain hurricane aid for the Sunshine State. And dozens of House absences on Thursday were only complicating the GOP whip effort.

In a vote earlier Thursday, there were 42 lawmakers — 23 Republicans and 19 Democrats — who failed to show up for the roll call due to various reasons. Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemACLU sues South Dakota over pipeline protest legislation Kentucky House approves bill to let people carry concealed guns without a permit Journalists seek federal, state support for right to inform the public MORE (R-S.D.), for example, is building out her new governor’s office, while retiring Rep. Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsPompeo seen as top recruit for Kansas Senate seat Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch GOP seeks to ram through Trump’s B wall demand MORE (R-Kan.) is getting married this weekend.

With roughly 390 voting members, it will require roughly 195 GOP votes to pass the new funding package.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Mueller report poses new test for Dems Washington in frenzy over release of Mueller report MORE (R-N.C.), the chairman of the far-right Freedom Caucus, predicted the bill would pass through the House — an outcome that is very much in doubt. He framed the effort as a necessary response to the clamor Republicans are hearing from their constituents at home.

“What I’ve hard very loudly and very clearly from my constituents is they don’t want us to just give up on this particular issue,” Meadows said. “They want us to fight on their behalf.”

Yet Republicans are hardly on the same page when it comes to the party’s approach to the year-end spending strategy.

Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonHouse passes Paycheck Fairness Act Press: Democrats dare to think big Dem chairwoman seeks watchdog probe of Park Service’s shutdown operations MORE (R-Idaho) on Thursday suggested that GOP leaders pass the six outstanding spending bills that have been finalized, while moving the contentious Homeland Security bill — which contains the wall funding — on a temporary basis with a continuing resolution. That was the strategy offered by Democratic leaders and rejected by Trump.

“And that’s what we ought to do,” he said.

Senators are being advised that they should plan for a noon vote on Friday if the House can get a bill to the upper chamber, according to a Senate aide.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' MORE (R-Ky.) after returning from a White House ceremony sidestepped questions about the fight. Asked if he was still confident there wouldn't be a shutdown, he said: "The action is over on the House side." 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, acknowledged that a stopgap bill that included $5 billion for the border wall could not pass the Senate, where it would need Democratic support. 
 
"I think it's all very fluid and you know the president may change his mind — a couple of times," he said. "The worst possible politics are shutdown politics. The only thing worse than shutdown politics might be shutdown politics at Christmas." 
 
House Republicans, upset that they were sent a stopgap after a voice vote, said they’re ready to force the Senate’s hand.

“We can jam them back,” Simpson said.

If the bill fails, it’s not clear what will happen.

Parts of the government will shut down on Saturday without a funding measure, an outcome GOP leaders in both chambers want to avoid.

But it’s not clear if Trump will sign a measure that doesn’t include his $5 billion demand.

Trump dug in further Thursday afternoon, stating at a signing for the farm bill that he would not budge if border security money is not included in the bill.

“I've made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” the president said.

Trump said his push for a border wall “is not merely my campaign promise,” but is also “the promise every lawmaker made.”

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But the president also said he would call the structures “steel slats” in order “to give them a little bit of an out.”

“We don’t use the word ‘wall,’ necessarily, but it has to be something special to do the job,” he said.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Thursday he’d received a message that Trump would not sign a bill that did not include $5 billion for the wall. It wasn’t clear who the message came from though Limbaugh suggested it was from Trump’s circle.

“You tell Rush that if there’s no money in this, it’s getting vetoed. If there’s no money — if there’s no money for a wall — I’m vetoing this, plain and simple,” Limbaugh said in relaying the message.

“This was the message that I just got, and I trust it and I believe it to be the case,” he said.

Some rank-and-file Republicans said their objective Thursday was simply to have a vote on Trump’s wall — regardless of outcome.

“I think what members want is the ability to vote. We want to vote for our border security,” said Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrOcasio-Cortez plans visit to Kentucky despite being disinvited by GOP colleague Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine MORE (R-Ky.). “That was what members were expressing to leadership in conference this morning, is that if it fails, it fails, but let us vote for what the people asked us to vote on.”

In the event that a vote on the $5 billion wall funding fails, he added, he believes much of the conference would be more amenable to a clean continuing resolution, and perhaps Trump would be as well.

Outgoing Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges MORE (R-Texas), who attended the meeting with Trump, said the president's reaction was key. “Ah, that’s the test,” he said when asked if Trump would sign a clean continuing resolution in the event a wall vote failed.

Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesMnuchin tells Congress it's 'premature' to talk about Trump tax returns decision Live coverage: Barr faces House panel amid questions over Mueller report Overnight Defense: Dem chair rejects Pentagon request to use B for border wall | House fails to override Trump veto | Pelosi at AIPAC vows Israel won't be 'wedge issue' MORE (R-Ga.), an appropriator, said the intent was to pass the wall funding, not to simply take a vote and let it fail.

“I don’t know anybody that just wants to vote on something that’ll fail," he said. "I think there’s serious intent behind what everybody is expressing about border security.”

Democrats, meanwhile, marveled at the chaos.

“I don’t know who’s running this,” said Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrolling of Bill Barr shows how language is twisted to politics Barr says Mueller report will be released 'within a week' Live coverage: Barr faces House panel amid questions over Mueller report MORE (D-N.Y.), the likely incoming chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“If this is a conclusion, it’s very sad, it’s not productive, we were elected to get our work done and it’s really very sad that we can’t move forward with positive legislation,” she said.

Juliegrace Brufke and Jordain Carney contributed. 

Clarification: An earlier version of this story combined the total funding for the wall and border security in the GOP bill into one sum.