Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure

Lawmakers are preparing to ignore President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE’s request to loosen restrictions on border wall funding as part of a short-term spending deal.

The ask, included in the Trump administration’s 21-page wish list for a continuing resolution (CR), comes amid renewed tensions over the border ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline to avoid another government shutdown. The administration also announced recently it was moving forward with shifting $3.6 billion from military projects to wall construction.

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Congressional Republicans have stressed that they support the CR funding request, which would let the administration use money to build border barriers outside the Rio Grande Valley Sector. But now they’re sending early warning signals that they don’t expect the CR to include language granting the White House request.

“Hopefully they can work out a deal where there’s maximum flexibility for the president when it comes to money for the wall, but I’m sure the Democrats will push hard back against that,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas) warned that “the administration asks for it, but the Democrats don’t have to give it.”

Asked if Republicans could get Democrats to go along with including the administration’s request in a CR, Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTrump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - In reversal, Trump says he won't disband coronavirus task force McConnell under mounting GOP pressure to boost state aid MORE (R-W.Va.), who oversees the Appropriations subcommittee for Department of Homeland Security funding, added with a laugh: “I doubt it.”

The fiscal 2019 funding deal, which Trump signed in February, included $1.375 billion for fencing in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. A forthcoming CR would extend 2019 spending, meaning restrictions on where the administration can build the fencing would remain in place. 

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As part of a 21-page list of “anomalies” sent to both the House and Senate Appropriations committees, the White House asked lawmakers to include language in the CR to lift those restrictions. Without a change, the White House argues, the administration would be receiving money for an area that already has a border barrier.

“Without the anomaly, funding available ... during the period of the CR could only be used for projects in that [Rio Grande Valley] Sector, which are already fully funded,” the White House wrote in the document sent to lawmakers, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.

The fight over Trump’s request comes as tensions are running high in the Senate amid a renewed border fight.

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee blocked a Democratic amendment offered to a fiscal 2020 funding bill that aimed to prevent Trump from shifting Pentagon funds to border wall construction without congressional approval. Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to force a vote this month on nixing Trump’s emergency declaration to redirect military construction funds to the wall. 

The House is expected to vote on a short-term spending bill next week that would extend government funding through Nov. 21. A House Democratic aide told The Hill that the caucus opposes including the administration’s request for lifting the restrictions on border wall construction in that bill.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyMissouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he expects the short-term spending bill will need to be “clean,” meaning absent of provisions viewed by either party as poison pills. 

“The CR is going to have to essentially be clean in order to pass,” he said when asked about the chances of Democrats agreeing to lift the border restrictions.

Senate Republicans have not said if they will introduce their own CR before the end of the month. Either way, they’ll need to negotiate with House Democrats what changes from the 2019 spending bill will be included in the final stopgap bill.

As part of the two-year budget deal, congressional leadership and the White House signed off on a handshake agreement that they wouldn’t include poison pills unless they got approval from all parties.

Thune said he expected that same agreement would apply to a short-term spending bill, which could complicate attempts to make changes to how the administration can spend any border money because it would require buy-in from Democrats.

“I think the understanding of it was that existing policy stays in place,” he said. “Attempts to change it have to be signed off on by the four leaders and the president.” 

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.) told The Hill that he hadn’t yet started negotiations with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyJulián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries House Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia MORE (D-N.Y.) over potential adjustments that would be included in a CR.

Asked if thought he would be able to lift the border spending restrictions as part of the CR, he noted that the courts had allowed Trump to construct the border wall as court litigation plays out. 

“The president's got a lot of power, express and implied, and the courts seem to be trending his way,” Shelby said.

Pressed that Trump was asking Congress to lift the restriction, Shelby acknowledged that it could be difficult with a divided government.

“You got a Democratic House,” he said. “The equation is different.”