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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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills 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 SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas 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 McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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 McCarthyDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in House Trump to attack Biden in CPAC speech McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' 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 PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber 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 McCaskillThe Memo: Punish Trump or risk a repeat, warn Democrats GOP senators criticized for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to trial Hawley watches trial from visitor's gallery MORE (Mo.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE (Ind.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterJennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Democrats in standoff over minimum wage On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears 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 PetersDeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel Top cops deflect blame over Capitol attack Law enforcement officials lay out evidence Capitol riot was 'coordinated' attack 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 holds candlelight vigil for American lives lost to COVID-19 Two men charged with making threatening calls to Michigan officials On The Money: Democrats make historic push for aid, equity for Black farmers | Key players to watch in minimum wage fight 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 BookerCongressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisEmhoff reflects on interracial marriage case: Without this 'I would not be married to Kamala Harris' WHO: Coronavirus deaths down 20 percent worldwide last week Collins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBecerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill 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.