Trump may drop request for border wall funding in spending bill
Facing bipartisan opposition to including funds to build a wall along the U.S. southern border in the spending bill to keep the government operating past this weekend, President Trump told a group of conservative media representatives that he may drop his insistence for the wall funding if it will help pass the legislation.
"On funding the border wall, Trump said he could get it this week or the administration could come back to it in September," Trey Yingst, a White House correspondent for One America News, reported in a tweet. A White House official who asked for anonymity confirmed what Trump said during the private meeting.
Democrats, whose votes will be needed to help pass the spending plan, hope he'll blink to avoid an embarrassing milestone for a new president trying to prove he can govern. A partial shutdown would start on Saturday, Trump's 100th day in office.
"The President's comments this evening are welcome news given the bipartisan opposition to the wall, and the obstacle it has been to the continuing bipartisan negotiations in the appropriations committees," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "It's time for Congress to act to make it clear that government will remain open for the American people."
Democrats are united in their opposition to including any funding for a border wall in the bill. They are also opposing a measure that would cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. Republicans will need at least some Democrats to vote for the funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown, since some House conservatives are balking at the price tag.
"I wouldn't risk a trillion-dollar funding bill for a $3 billion wall," Representative Tom Cole, the Oklahoma Republican who sits on the House appropriations and budget committees, told MSNBC Monday. "There's another way, another time to get this."
Through it all, Trump has sounded upbeat, saying he thinks negotiations are in good shape to avert a shutdown.
"We don't know yet" whether Trump would sign a spending bill that doesn't include money for the border wall, Mulvaney, a former House member from South Carolina and a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's spokesman, Matt House, complained that the White House in recent days brought a "heavy hand" into what he said were smooth-going talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats.
"If the administration would drop their 11th-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal," House said in a statement Friday.
Schumer told MSNBC on Monday that Republican and Democratic leaders were on their way to a resolution when Trump intervened "and he throws a monkey wrench in it."
One thing is certain: Any spending deal must be a bipartisan one. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan know they'll both need Democratic votes to pass a government funding measure.
The Senate needs 60 votes to advance legislation, meaning the 52 Republicans will need help from at least eight Democrats. In the House, conservatives led by the Freedom Caucus and other fiscal hawks have regularly bolted on spending bills, and Democrats have provided enough votes for passage.
The president's goals are bumping against the reality of Washington politics. That he appears willing to be flexible signals an openness on other issues like health care and taxes.
The question is how far he will go to compromise. The White House has indicated it doesn't want a government shutdown, as has the GOP leadership in the House and Senate. Democrats will exert maximum leverage to get what they want in the spending bill, knowing that a shutdown would be portrayed in the media as a blow to the president's prestige.
It's a fact of life that no matter who is at fault, the media will blame the president if the government shuts its doors this weekend. That, too, is a reality of Washington politics, and almost 100 days into his presidency, Donald Trump appears to accept that reality and move forward.