Faced with minority status, House conservatives revolt against funding bill

With the clock ticking toward a partial government shutdown on Friday, embittered House conservatives, facing life in the minority in January, lashed out at their leadership for refusing to include funding for a border wall.  The Senate passed a stopgap measure that will keep the entire government operating into February, but conservatives are balking, pointing out that Nancy Pelosi will never bring up the issue of funding for a border wall as long as Democrats are in the majority.


The Senate unanimously cleared the stopgap legislation Wednesday night, a sign of buckling that further inflamed House conservatives who accused their leaders of running away from an immigration fight in their final days of controlling both chambers of Congress.

"Do we actually think we're going to build a border security wall when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House?" Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday as he introduced an 11th hour amendment to add $5 billion in wall funding to the bill.  "This is our last best chance," he said.

But the president believes he has "leverage" to force a vote on the border wall next year.

"The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security. U.S.A. WINS!" Trump wrote.

He also gave a strong indication that he would sign the stopgap funding bill, arguing that he's already fortified the border, making the funding of a wall a less urgent issue.

"With so much talk about the Wall, people are losing sight of the great job being done on our Southern Border by Border Patrol, ICE and our great Military," Trump tweeted.  "Remember the Caravans? Well, they didn't get through and none are forming or on their way. Border is tight. Fake News silent!"

House GOP leaders had privately predicted that the bill would come to the floor Thursday with broad bipartisan support, likely averting a partial government shutdown before Christmas.  But the prospect of a swift, drama-free vote was thrown into question Wednesday evening, with multiple Republican lawmakers suggesting that GOP leaders had a numbers problem.

Simply declaring victory means nothing.  With Democrats in control of the agenda and able to block any consideration whatsoever of funding for a wall, Trump's "leverage" is as fake as the "fake news" he rails against.

It's a bitter pill for House conservatives who felt they could win an immigration fight in the waning days of the session:

With the Freedom Caucus nearly uniformly in opposition, GOP leaders can't afford to lose other votes if they want a majority of Republicans on board.

Scores of Democrats are almost certain to support the bill, so its passage is probably not in jeopardy.  But a poor showing among House Republicans would be an embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan in what could be his final vote – and it could embolden Trump to force the government shutdown that he threatened as recently as last week. ...

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), along with more than a dozen other conservatives, took the House floor Wednesday night in a series of protest floor speeches seeking more money for the wall.

"My president, we're going to back you up, if you veto this bill, we'll be there." Meadows said on the floor.  Hours earlier, he tweeted that a punt into February would be a "Valentine's Day gift" to Pelosi and her deputies.

Would Trump veto the bill?  If there is something predictable about Trump, it is his unpredictability.  He wouldn't necessarily mind if the onus for the shutdown fell on him.  Most of his supporters would consider it a badge of honor.

But the optics of partially shutting down the government and furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers at Christmastime are just too damaging to contemplate.  That argument from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell apparently won the day with the president earlier this week.

Trump's veto threat of Democratic priorities is real.  But it's not leverage.  It's petulance.  Democrats would be content going into the 2020 election with a record of passing a host of liberal programs like Medicare for All and universal college tuition, only to see it blocked by a Republican Senate and president.

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