Schumer: Money for Border Wall Could Be Used to ‘Give Just About Every American Broadband’

Susan Jones | April 25, 2017 | 3:25pm EDT
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Senate Democrats warn Republicans they'll be blamed for a government shutdown if they insist on provisions that Democrats reject in a must-pass spending bill. (Screen grab from April 25 news conference from C-SPAN)

(  - It was a message repeated several times at a Democrat news conference Tuesday afternoon: Republicans, agree with us on a spending bill, or we’ll blame you for shutting down the government.

And it appears that Republicans, who control all three branches of government, are listening:

“Now last night, we received a bit of good news -- not just for Democrats but for the country – that the president is easing off his demands for a border wall in the government funding bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the news conference.

“The money is better used elsewhere,” Schumer said. “If the wall is $50 billion dollars, you could use that money to give just about every American broadband.”

Schumer said negotiations with Republicans had been moving along just fine on a spending bill that must pass by April 28 -- until President Trump’s “11th hour demand” for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his long-promised wall between the United States and Mexico.

“We’re pleased he’s backing off,” Schumer said. But he added that there are a number of “outstanding issues" to be resolved:

“First and foremost, Democrats remain committed to making sure that there are no poison pill riders in this agreement," Schumer said. "Sen. Leahy has done a good job knocking out a whole bunch, but there are more on significant issues that have not been resolved.

"If Republicans want to undermine women’s health or roll back financial protections for consumers, they should do so in the light of day, in full debate, on the floor of the Senate, instead of trying to tuck those issues into must-pass spending bills."

Schumer listed some of the “outstanding issues” -- or Democrat demands:

“We want to prevent the Trump Administration and Republicans from defunding health care. We want to help our miners, help Puerto Rico, among other things."

Schumer said he’s optimistic that an agreement can be “reached quickly” with Republicans. “We’re committed to doing exactly that.”

Also speaking at the news conference, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "I just want to add that the Republicans are in control of the White House and the majorities of the House and the Senate. It’s their decision about whether this government shuts down. Taking the border wall off the table was important. But it’s not the end of the conversation."

Durbin called for “fair funding” in a supplemental request for the Defense Department ("fair funding" means less than Republicans want, in other words). And on the non-defense side, he listed “important considerations” such as health benefits for coal miners (which Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also supports); helping the people in Puerto Rico with Medicaid; and making sure the Trump administration does not fulfill its other major promise, to end Obamacare.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), described by Schumer as the poison bill buster, said his message has been simple all along:

"We can do this in a responsible way, and keep the government going. You Republicans should not want to shut down the government, and they are the only ones who have the power to shut down the government. And you do not want to shut down the government of the most powerful nation on earth. Think of the humiliation of the United States throughout the world if you Republicans shut down the government."

The last government shutdown was in 2013, when Democrats controlled the Senate and the presidency.  House Republicans, who were trying to defund Obamacare, were blamed for that one, too.

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