Battle looms over funding for Trump's border wall

Battle looms over funding for Trump's border wall
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The biggest fight looming for lawmakers in the lame-duck session is over President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE’s request to fully fund his proposed border wall, which he made a top priority while campaigning for GOP candidates this fall.

Republican leaders, leery of a partial government shutdown, are hesitant to push Trump’s demand to the brink. But lawmakers acknowledge it will be tough to resist the president if he insists on a hard-line position given his popularity with the GOP base.

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Trump this week called on Congress to fully fund his border-wall proposal, setting the stage for a difficult negotiation that will stretch well into December.

“We need the money to build the wall, the whole wall — not pieces of it all over,” the president said at a White House press conference Wednesday. “I’d like to see the wall.” 

Democrats are staunchly opposed to the idea. They argue that it’s bad policy and don’t want to give Trump a major accomplishment that he can take into his 2020 reelection campaign.

Yet, after Trump hammered Democratic candidates repeatedly over border security during the 30 rallies he held after Labor Day, Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Why we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds MORE (N.Y.) says he’s willing to give something to Trump.

“On the general issue of border security, we’ve had great discussions in the appropriations process. They’ve been bipartisan,” Schumer said Wednesday.

Schumer said “there are good agreements on border security and other things that are in the Homeland Security appropriation” and predicted Republican and Democratic leaders could “get something good done” as long as the president doesn’t interfere.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (R-Ky.) says he will push for Trump’s border wall funding but has tried to manage expectations ahead of the lame-duck session, noting he needs Democratic cooperation.

“We’re certainly going to try to help the president achieve what he’d like to do with regard to the wall and border security and that obviously will have be done on some kind of bipartisan discussion,” he said Wednesday, but added that he wants to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The wildcard will be Trump, who has in recent months threatened a government shutdown to force the Democrats’ hand.

Asked Wednesday if he would pursue a shutdown strategy, Trump replied, “Not necessarily.”

The president had previously said in September that he would be willing to let the Department of Homeland Security shutter if necessary to fund his border wall.

“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything. We have to protect our borders.”

Trump could have a strong ally in House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.), who has proposed legislation to fully fund the border wall and is running to become minority leader in the next Congress, when Democrats will have control of the House.

Democrats say they are not optimistic about negotiating a deal with Trump on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for funding the border wall. Trump tried to end the Obama-era program, which protected from deportation illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, but courts have blocked those efforts.

Schumer offered trading a DACA fix for the border wall in January but then quickly rescinded when Trump didn’t agree.

“As we’ve seen, the president’s a very poor negotiator on those issues. He makes agreements and he backs off so we’re sort of dubious of sitting down with the president and making that kind of exchange again when twice he’s shaken hands and backed off,” Schumer said.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHistory teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment The politics and practicalities of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE (Calif.), who is expected to become Speaker when the new Congress begins in early January, told The Wall Street Journal this week before the election results were in that she did not feel the need to concede anything to Trump on the border.

“Why would we compromise on the wall now?” she said.  

Border security was a vulnerability for Senate Democratic incumbents such as Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Dem candidate has Hawley served subpoena at CPAC Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 MORE (Mo.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (Mont.) in Tuesday’s election.

Trump and his Republican allies hit those candidates on the issue repeatedly, with the Democrats scrambling to adopt the president’s position.

McCaskill told voters “there’s no daylight between myself and the president on border security” and Donnelly touted his support for Trump’s border wall in an ad to voters, but the effort to tack to the right on the issue failed to protect them. 

Montana state auditor Matt Rosendale, Tester’s opponent, warned of Mexican meth coming across the border and having a devastating impact on local communities.

But now that McCaskill and Donnelly have lost — Tester managed to squeak by to a victory — the issue is less of a vulnerability for Senate Democrats.

The electoral map is much more favorable for Democrats in 2020. Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersDems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers push to award Aretha Franklin the Congressional Gold Medal Congress sends bill renewing anti-terrorism program to Trump MORE (Mich.) are the only Democrats running for reelection in the next cycle in states that Trump carried in 2016, and Michigan is still seen as Democratic territory after Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowChris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care: Senators grill drug execs over high prices | Progressive Dems unveil Medicare for all bill | House Dems to subpoena Trump officials over family separations Senators grill drug execs over high prices MORE (D-Mich.) won an easy reelection on Tuesday

Instead, Schumer will feel more pressure from prominent liberals in his caucus such as Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College Gillibrand: Aide who claimed sexual harassment was 'believed' MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Warren introduces petition to end the Electoral College MORE (D-Mass.), who are angling for presidential runs and are in no mood to give Trump a big win ahead of 2020.

"Mr. President, we’re never, ever going to build your stupid wall," Warren declared at the Netroots National Annual Conference last year.