Trump's push to fund wall may be delayed
as government shutdown looms
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[April 25, 2017]
By Richard Cowan and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Donald Trump indicated an openness on Monday to delaying his push to
secure funds for his promised border wall with Mexico, potentially
eliminating a sticking point as lawmakers worked to avoid a looming
shutdown of the federal government.
Trump, in a private meeting with conservative media outlets, said he may
wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the
fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1 to seek government funds for building
a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House confirmed.
Trump, whose approval ratings have slid since he took office, is facing
a Friday deadline for Congress to pass a spending bill funding the
government through September or risk marking his 100th day in office on
Saturday with a government shutdown.
"Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on
the outstanding issues," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in
a statement on Monday night.
Earlier on Monday, Schumer reiterated an assertion made last week that
bipartisan negotiations in Congress were going well until the White
House began demanding money for the wall as a condition for accepting a
Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress, a funding bill
will need 60 votes to clear the 100-member Senate, where Republicans
hold 52 seats, meaning at least some Democrats will have to get behind
If no spending measure covering April 29 to Sept. 30 is in place before
12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Saturday, government funds will halt and
hundreds of thousands of the country's several million federal employees
will be temporarily laid off.
Those in jobs deemed essential such as law enforcement are expected to
keep working in the hope they will receive back pay. Non-essential
sectors such as national parks are liable to be closed and programs such
as federally funded medical research will grind to a halt.
Failure to approve a government funding bill could also throw new doubts
over Republicans' ability to fashion a budget blueprint for the next
fiscal year or to succeed in a major effort to cut corporate and
individual taxes that Trump has touted.
Congressional leaders will likely have to decide by late on Tuesday
whether negotiations are progressing enough to try to pass a spending
bill funding the government through September, Senator Roy Blunt, a
member of the Republican leadership and Senate Appropriations Committee,
told reporters on Monday.
If negotiations have slowed or stalled, Congress could pursue a
short-term extension of existing spending levels to avoid a government
shutdown, giving lawmakers more time to reach a deal. Leading Democrats
have said they would support such a measure only if talks are
Short-term funding measures, known as continuing resolutions that cover
periods of days, have been used to avert government shutdowns in the
past. But in 2013, conservative Republicans forced a 17-day shutdown in
a failed attempt to repeal former President Barack Obama's Affordable
Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
A Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare imploded in Congress
last month and the White House said on Monday that another vote could
not come for weeks.
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President Donald Trump looks on prior to signing financial services
executive orders at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S.,
April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
But Trump has dangled the prospect of funding some elements of the
law, which enabled millions more Americans to secure healthcare
coverage, in exchange for Democrats' support in the spending talks.
The White House had offered to include $7 billion in Obamacare
subsidies that allow low-income people to pay for healthcare
insurance in exchange for Democratic backing of $1.5 billion in
funding to begin construction of a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico
It was unclear on Monday whether delaying wall funding until later
spending negotiations would invalidate the White House pledge to
include Obamacare subsidy funding for low-income people in the
current proposal funding the government through September.
Trump has argued that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is needed
to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United
States. In a Twitter message on Monday, Trump wrote: “If... the wall
is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be
fixed the way it should be!”
Earlier on Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump's
demand that Congress include funds for the construction of the wall
remained a White House priority.
"The president has made very clear that he's got two priorities in
this continuing resolution: No. 1, the increase in funding for the
military and No. 2, for our homeland security and the wall," Spicer
The White House is confident in the direction of the talks and an
announcement is expected soon, Spicer said, although he declined to
say specifically whether Trump would sign a bill that did not
contain money for border security and the wall.
Trump has said Mexico will repay the United States for the wall if
Congress funds it first. But the Mexican government is adamant it
will not provide any financing and Trump has not laid out a plan to
compel Mexico to pay. Department of Homeland Security internal
estimates have placed the total cost of a border barrier at about
Aside from inflaming relations with a major trading partner, the
planned wall has angered Democrats. They showed no sign of softening
their opposition on Monday and sought to place responsibility for
any shutdown squarely on Trump and congressional Republicans.
(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Susan
Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Paul Simao and Amanda Becker;
Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)
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