Republican Leaders May Not Fund Border Wall in Must-Pass Spending Bill

By Susan Jones | March 30, 2017 | 10:50 AM EDT

A Mexican soldier patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Trump administration has asked Congress for $1.4 billion in supplemental spending this year to begin the president’s long-promised border wall, but the money apparently will not be included in must-pass legislation to keep the government funded beyond April 28.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was asked if supplemental money for border security and defense – a total request of $33 billion dollars requested by the Trump administration -- would be included in the spending package that must pass by April 28 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

“We’re in the process of figuring out the way forward,” McConnell said. He then turned to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, for a fuller response:

“All of the committees, House and Senate leaderships, are working together to try to finalize the rest of the FY '17 bill,” Blunt said. “My guess is that comes together better without the supplemental,” he said.

Blunt indicated that lawmakers are “very close to potentially having a full year update (on FY ’17 spending) and then deal with the supplemental at a later time.”

McConnell told reporters, “There’s no desire for a CR (stopgap continuing resolution). Democrats and Republicans, as Senator Blunt indicated, are working together on this (FY '17 appropriations) and we fully anticipate getting an outcome prior to the end of April. We have to, actually.”

The supplemental spending requested on March 16 by the White House includes an additional $30 billion for the Department of Defense (to be offset by $18 billion in discretionary domestic spending), and an additional $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security for “urgent border protection activities,” including money for the “planning, design, and construction of the first installment of the border wall.”

Press reports on Thursday said Senate Democrats have just sent a letter to McConnell, warning Republicans that “it would be inappropriate” to put money for a border wall in the government funding bills due by April 28.

"All 12 appropriations bills should be completed and they should not include poison pill riders such as those that roll back protections for our veterans, environment, consumers and workers and prohibit funds for critical health care services for women through Planned Parenthood," the letter says, according to the Associated Press. "We strongly oppose the inclusion of such riders in any of the must-pass appropriations bills that fund the government."

Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made it clear that if Republicans want to debate a border wall in regular order, that’s fine, even though he opposes Trump's wall.

 “I have a lot of questions,” Schumer said at a March 14 news conference. “First one, President Trump said Mexico would pay for it. Why don't we try that before saddling the American taxpayers? Senator Cornyn is opposed to the wall because of eminent domain -- all the private property owners along the Texas border.

“What would the wall cost?” Schumer continued. “Where would it be built? These are all kinds of questions that should be answered in the regular appropriations process where we can entertain the wall. I personally, I can't see myself supporting the wall, but they can try to get to 60 votes for it.

“The problem is, to stick it on a bill, a must-pass bill, just like defunding Planned Parenthood, would be a huge mistake, and they would be responsible for shutting the government down,” Schumer warned on March 14.

Republicans would have no one but themselves to blame, he said -- even though Democrats would be the ones blocking government funding.

At a news conference this past Tuesday, Schumer complained about Trump’s plan to cut domestic programs in his Fiscal Year 2018 budget to help pay for a border wall:

“The administration is asking the American taxpayer to cover the cost of a wall -- unneeded, ineffective, absurdly expensive -- that Mexico was supposed to pay for -- and he is cutting programs that are vital to the middle class in the effort to get it done,” Schumer said.

“Mr. President, the proposed cuts that the administration sent up last night are dead on arrival in this Congress.”

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