House Approves Funding for US-Mexico Border Wall

December 20, 2018 Updated: December 21, 2018

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a government spending bill that includes $5.7 billion in funding for a new border wall on Dec. 20 as Congress works to prevent a partial government shutdown.

The House passed the government funding package with 217 votes for and 185 against, which also includes nearly $8 billion in disaster relief funding for areas affected by the year’s devastating coastal hurricanes and wildfires in California. The package now goes to the Senate and if passed, will prevent funding from running out for almost a quarter of government entities on Dec. 21.

Urgent Deadline Looms

More than 800,000 federal workers face furloughs, or working without pay, if a resolution is not reached before the current funding arrangement expires at midnight on Dec. 21. The legislation affects nine out of a total of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of government agencies, including the departments of homeland security, transportation, interior, agriculture, state and justice, as well as national parks and forests.

Many agencies, including the Pentagon and departments of veterans affairs and health and human services, are funded for the year and would continue to operate as usual even if the funding lapses in the case of a push-back in the Senate. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, would also be unaffected by any government shutdown since it is an independent agency.

The White House confirmed that President Donald Trump will not travel to Florida this Christmas if the government shuts down.

Funding For Wall Included After Presidential Push

The Senate had already approved a bipartisan bill on Dec. 19 to keep the government temporarily funded but with only $1.6 billion in funding for border security of which no money would go towards money for the border wall.

Despite GOP lawmakers being aware that the president had said he would not sign a spending bill without $5 billion in funding for a border wall, the votes on Dec. 19 were not enough to pass support for Trump’s request.

Trump reminded Republican lawmakers in a Dec. 20 tweet about their promise to fund the wall back when the president signed the 2017 funding bill.

“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the wall and border security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (now). It didn’t happen!” he said. “We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries—but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”

Now, in the House, House Republicans have been able to push through an amendment to the Senate-passed bill to add the $5 billion that Trump had demanded to go toward building the border wall.

“We want to keep the government open but we also want to see an agreement that protects the border,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) had said on the White House driveway after meeting with Trump for more than an hour before entering the House for the voting.

Following the passing of the bill, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters, “Let’s not forget that every single member of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats have campaigned that they want border security too.

“Democrats are playing political games and they have to decide whether or not they hate the President more than they love this country. They have to decide that they’re going to fulfill the duty that they took when they took the oath of office and that they came in here to do—they all campaigned on border security.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) welcomed the passed legislation. “Now we find compromise,” McCarthy told AP. “We have time right now to get it done.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) vowed to return to work on adding border security and keeping the government open. “We do want to see an agreement,” he told AP.

The Associated Press (AP) described the wall money’s successful passage through the House as a “slap-back” to Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who had warned Trump in a televised Oval Office meeting a week earlier that funding for the wall would not attract enough votes in the House.

Trump Stood Firm on Border Funding

Trump had earlier said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the wall funding issue. But looking to move past the deadlock on the issue, The White House added earlier in the week that Trump had said he is open to reviewing whatever bill Congress could send him.

Trump then criticized the Democrats for “putting politics over country.”

The legislation will now go to the Senate where 60 votes are needed to pass the funding package.

“We hope that they’ll fulfill their promise like the President is doing. He’s going to do it for his—uphold his constitutional duty to protect the American people, and we hope they’ll join with u.s.,” Sanders said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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