The House’s Republican leadership will include funding for a security structure on the southern border in their spending bill following pressure from President Donald Trump.
The president had informed GOP lawmakers that he wouldn’t sign their spending bill unless it included funding for a border wall. Republicans, however, don’t appear to have the votes to get the bill through the Senate before funding for almost a quarter of the government runs out on Dec. 21.
“I’ve made my position very clear,” Trump said during a closed-door meeting with House Republican leaders at the White House. “Any measure that funds the government must include border security.”
The group told reporters afterward they would try to amend a Senate-passed bill to add the $5 billion that Trump 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.) said on the White House driveway after meeting with Trump for more than an hour.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement after the meeting, saying both Trump and the lawmakers “all feel strongly about border security—stopping the flow of drugs, stopping human trafficking, and stopping terrorism.”
“We protect nations all over the world, but Democrats are unwilling to protect our nation. We urgently need funding for border security and that includes a wall,” she said.
Senate Bill Provides Extension
Legislation approved on Dec. 19 by the Senate had provided a seven-week extension of existing funds for agencies, punting the funding issue to the next Congress, where Democrats are poised to take over the House, while Republicans will expand their Senate majority.
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, which included just $1.6 billion for border fencing.
“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!”
“The Democrats, who know steel slats (wall) are necessary for border security, are putting politics over country,” he said. “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 said in another Twitter post.
In the San Diego area, Trump used the military to enhance the fencing with razor wire in anticipation of migrant caravans from Central America that appeared determined to break through the border barriers but were mostly unable to do so.
“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 wrote on Twitter on Dec. 20. “Remember the caravans? Well, they didn’t get through and none are forming or on their way. Border is tight. Fake news [is] silent!”
The Pentagon has said the military could be used to work on border barriers, but it isn’t clear whether there is money in the military budget that could be used for such a project without congressional approval.
Partial Shutdown Looms
The conservative House Freedom Caucus backed Trump’s demands for the funding, even at the cost of a shutdown.
“He campaigned on the wall,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the caucus. “It was the center of his campaign … the American people’s patience is running out.”
If the government goes into partial shutdown starting early Dec. 22, it could last until the new Congress in January. Democrats will have enough votes to pass a funding bill to send to the Republican-controlled Senate, leaving it up to Trump to decide whether to veto it.
The shutdown would affect the departments of justice, commerce, the interior, agriculture, and homeland security; more than 800,000 federal employees could be furloughed or ordered to work without pay.
Reuters contributed to this report.