Border wall bickering raises odds of shutdown

Democrats and Republicans are hardening their positions on President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE's proposed border wall, raising the odds of a partial government shutdown this month.

The White House and Senate Democrats are already pointing fingers over who would be to blame if a shutdown occurs, with each accusing the other side of precipitating a potential funding lapse over the wall.

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"If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down some departments and agencies over Christmas, that's certainly within his power," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on the Senate floor.

The White House shot back, accusing Democrats of preferring a shutdown instead of stronger border security.

"Another Schumer shutdown would not surprise anyone, it has become the new norm in Washington," said Meghan Burris, a spokeswoman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The federal government briefly shut down in January after a standoff over whether to extend protections to “Dreamers,” immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, and again in February over spending disagreements.

This time around, Congress has until Dec. 7 to pass seven appropriations bills to keep the entire government funded. Portions of the government funded in the five previous bills, which Trump signed in September, would not be affected by a shutdown.

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But without an agreement on the wall early this week, Congress will likely have to pass a short-term extension to keep the government funded and allow more time for negotiations.

So far, little progress has been made.

The Senate passed its version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill with bipartisan support over the summer. The measure would allocate $1.6 billion for border security, including pedestrian fencing in the Rio Grande Valley. That sum was in line with the White House’s budget request at the time.

But the White House later said it wanted more money.

Trump told Republican appropriators in a tense meeting in June, before the Senate passed its DHS bill, that the figure was not high enough, and demanded $5 billion to fund the wall. When House Republicans passed their version of the bill in committee a few weeks later, they allocated the full $5 billion.

The president has since threatened to veto any spending bill that doesn’t fund the wall to his satisfaction, telling Politico this week that he would “totally be willing" to shut down the government if there’s an impasse.

Rather than moving toward an agreement, negotiators on both sides have dug in their heels.

"The president has been very clear that $5 billion is the number that we're going to be focused on, the number we need," Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRep. Cheney: Socialism 'driving the agenda of the Democratic Party' Dem lawmaker offers tool for 'filling in the blanks' of Green New Deal Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (Wyo.), the incoming House Republican Conference chairwoman, said on Tuesday.

In his Thursday floor speech, Schumer said Republicans could choose one of two “reasonable” options to avert a shutdown: Stick with the Senate-passed bill from the summer or keep 2018 funding levels in place through Sept. 30 by passing a continuing resolution.

“President Trump has a simple choice of two good, bipartisan options. If he decides to support either the bipartisan DHS bill or a continuing resolution, I am confident that both would pass by comfortable margins,” Schumer said. “The only position that cannot garner 60 votes is the president’s position.”

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig Shelby20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Conservatives urge Trump to stick with Moore for Fed Poll: Roy Moore leading Alabama GOP field MORE (R-Ala.), the top Senate appropriator, has been working to advance a compromise that would secure $5 billion in wall funding over two years. Democrats would have to agree to an additional $900 million in funding for 2018, and forego a fight over wall funding in fiscal 2019, which ends Sept. 30.

House Democrats said the Shelby proposal was untenable.

“No matter how many years you spread it over, $5 billion for President Trump’s wasteful wall is too much money,” 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 House’s top Democratic appropriator.

Other political and legislative obstacles are complicating matters.

Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars MORE (D-Calif.), are pushing for the spending bill to include legislation that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE and his Russia investigation.

Pelosi has little incentive to cave to Trump’s demands as she attempts to win over the remaining skeptics in her party to support her bid for Speaker on Jan. 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring MORE (R-Ky.) has worked to sideline the Mueller bill but faces additional pressure from retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (R-Ariz.), who is opposing Trump’s judicial nominations until the Senate votes on the Mueller measure.

Congressional leaders want to avoid extending their legislative session past Dec. 14. Before then, they need to pass a farm bill and reach a long-term agreement on national flood insurance, with Republicans wanting to push through a slate of court nominees.

With Democrats taking control of the House next month, Republicans know they will be in a weakened negotiating position come January, increasing the chances that Trump will follow through on his threats to veto a spending bill that doesn’t meet his funding demands for the wall.

In the past, he has backed down on such threats, but he seems convinced that standing firm on the issue will benefit him politically.

"I don't do anything ... just for political gain," Trump said this week. "But I will tell you, politically speaking, that issue is a total winner.”