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 TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes No agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Republican strategist says an Amash presidential bid wouldn't result in 'any real political gain' 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' 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 Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (Mo.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Obama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 MORE (Ind.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds GOP angst grows amid Trump trade war 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 PetersSenate Commerce chair to renew push for regs on self-driving vehicles Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems 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 StabenowCongress: Support legislation to defend Medicare home health  Dems want climate change, tax hikes in infrastructure deal Critics accuse EPA of weakening pollution rule for Pentagon 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 BookerHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign T.I., Charlamagne Tha God advocate for opportunity zones on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — CBO officials testify on pros and cons of 'Medicare for All' | Booker vows to form White House office on abortion rights | Measles outbreak spreads with cases now in half the country MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues 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.