Senate Republicans More Worried About Government Shutdown Than Wall Funding

By Susan Jones | December 19, 2018 | 5:51am EST
Senate Republican leaders give an update on border security and government funding options. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

(Update: Sen. McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate will vote on a short-term continuing resolution to keep the remaining government agencies funded at current levels until Feb. 8, a time when Democrats will be driving the appropriations bus. So, that probably means no $5 billion from Congress for Trump's wall.)

( - President Trump told Democrat leaders last week that he'd accept the blame for a government shutdown if that's what it takes to get the $5 billion he wants to build a border wall.

But now it looks like neither thing will happen.

Democrats on Tuesday rejected a Republican proposal to give Trump an additional $1 billion for border security, on top of the $1.6 billion included in the bipartisan funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it a billion dollar "slush fund" and said it would not pass in either chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that discussions continue with the White House on "the way forward." The goal now is to avoid a government shutdown, he indicated:

"I think a government shutdown is -- is not a good option. That's my view. The American people don't like it. I don't know how many times -- you remember my favorite country saying, there's no education in the second kick of a mule.

"We've been down this path before, and I don't believe we'll go down this path again."

A reporter asked McConnell if a short-term continuing resolution -- to keep the remaining federal agencies funded at current levels -- is the only option right now:

"Well I'm going to -- I'm -- I'm discussing with the White House where we go next and once I get an answer to that -- excuse me -- once I get an answer to that, I'll talk with Senator Schumer again and see what we can do.

"I think there's certainly bipartisan support for avoiding a government shutdown, and so we're now trying to figure out the way forward and I'll get back to you when I know."

"Are you convinced that you will not shut down over Christmas?" a reporter asked McConnell.

"Yeah, I am," he replied.

At the Democrats' news conference, Schumer said his party has "made two reasonable offers" that would pass both the House and the Senate:

One, pass the six bipartisan appropriations bills and a one-year C.R. for the Homeland Security bill. Or, alternatively, a one-year C.R. for the remaining seven appropriations bills.

The president said last week, he would be proud to shut down the government. We Democrats don't want to shut down the government. And as for the idea of what Sarah Sanders Huckabee said, they could get wall money from NAFTA or some other part of the government, they need congressional approval. They're not getting it for the wall. Plain and simple.

Now, where are we? The ball remains in the president's and Republicans' court to accept one of our common-sense proposals.

Later, Schumer told a reporter, if Republicans can't agree to those two "reasonable offers," and if they propose a short-term continuing resolution instead, "we'd certainly very seriously look at it, for sure. But as to how long it is, will be up to Leader McConnell," Schumer added.

McConnell said he doesn't like the idea of a short-term continuing resolution:

"If we end up going with a relatively short-term CR, we will end up in effect punting this year's business into next year. I think it's not a very desirable outcome from anybody's point of view. I would think it'd be the least desirable outcome from the incoming Speaker's point of view."

McConnell said if he were in Rep. Nancy Pelosi's shoes, "I would rather not be dealing with this year's business next year. I would assume her preference would be to roll out the new Democratic agenda by the fresh new Democratic Congress in the early stages." McConnell also said that Pelosi -- who hopes to be voted in as House Speaker in January -- has little "latitude" to negotiate at this time.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday, "We are continuing to have constant and regular conversations with the Hill. I'm not going to negotiate here. We've laid out clearly what our parameters are with members of Congress. We want to know what they can pass. We want to know what they think they can actually get done. We've laid out what we like to see.

"In the meantime, we're looking at other areas where we can draw money from to make sure that the president can actually protect our border and protect American citizens."

President Trump tweeted about his "beautiful" wall on Tuesday, and then again early this morning:

"In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning.

In a second Wednesday tweet, he wrote: "Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA! Far more money coming to the U.S. Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!"

On Tuesday, he tweeted:

"The Democrats, are saying loud and clear that they do not want to build a Concrete Wall - but we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it....

....It will be beautiful and, at the same time, give our Country the security that our citizens deserve. It will go up fast and save us BILLIONS of dollars a month once completed!


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