Congress set to deny Trump wall money


President Donald Trump suggested Monday night that he will not insist on border wall funding in this latest spending package. | Getty

Lawmakers and the White House are eager to step back from the brink of a government shutdown.

Updated


President Donald Trump is almost certainly not going to get his money for a wall on the border with Mexico this week. But Republicans are confident they can deliver him a significant boost in border security spending that allows Trump to spin the government funding bill as a victory anyway.

Trump has been sending mixed signals on how hard he is pressing for wall funding in a bill that must pass by Friday night to avoid a government shutdown. On Monday evening he signaled to conservative journalists that he would be content fighting for the money in the fall — but on Tuesday he tweeted to his followers to not the believe the “fake media” reporting on a change in position.

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Still, aides, senators and White House officials said on Tuesday that Trump is coming to terms with the reality that pushing for wall funding would invite a shutdown fight because of the Democrats’ blanket opposition.

“It sounds like they’re moving away from that insistence,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who wants Trump to submit a comprehensive border security plan to Congress.

“The wall has become sort of a code word for border security,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had dinner with Trump and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday. “I’m confident that he doesn’t want a shutdown. I hope the Democrats don’t either. Border security, rather than a physical wall, is probably an acceptable outcome here.”

But Trump is also aware that fully backing down at this point could embolden Democrats who are clamoring for a commitment to permanently fund Obamacare’s insurance subsidies, according to one person involved in spending bill negotiations. Democrats are likely to receive no better than a temporary patch to keep those funds flowing to low-income Americans, which will cost about $7 billion this year. Trump’s administration has threatened to cut off those funds as a condition for getting his wall funding.

However, a White House official said acceptance is setting in that, at least for now, Trump will not get money for his central campaign promise to build a massive barrier on the southern border.

Congress “will ramp up border security money with additional fencing and security measures short of the great wall,” said the official. “Then push for wall money in the fall.”

McCain explained the shift as typical for a chief executive still in his first 100 days in the White House: “Presidents are allowed to modify their views with additional information.”

But White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that there is no delay in Trump’s wall and that the president’s “priorities have not changed.” Trump himself said on Tuesday afternoon that “the wall is going to be built.”

Some prominent conservatives immediately criticized Trump for backing away from a confrontation with Democrats over a must-pass spending bill. Democrats have vowed they would not vote for a bill funding the wall, even as top Trump officials have insisted it be included in the spending bill.

“I hope this is not the case. But it looks like, from here, right here, right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico,” said Rush Limbaugh.

By Tuesday afternoon, Democrats were ebullient about Trump’s newfound flexibility. Democrats are, however, willing to send more than $1 billion in border security to Trump, as long as it doesn’t directly fund the border wall.

“He understands that he could jeopardize the budget process. We’ve really warned him weeks and weeks ago not to try and fight the wall battle,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). And cutting off Obamacare subsidies now would mean “the net result of this is going to be to cut off health insurance of 6 million people.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Trump’s statements backing away from a shutdown fight with Democrats signaled to Republicans that the border fight, for now, is over.

“The president is easing off his demands for the border funding in this bill,” Schumer told reporters. “All of the signals we’re getting is what the president said last night is being taken at face value by our Republican negotiators.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who oversees the homeland security spending panel, said GOP leaders would likely fund the entirety of Trump’s border security proposal — the $1.4 billion that he initially wanted for the wall — but for everything but the “physical barrier” that Trump wants.

With the wall issue seemingly settled, Democrats are divided over how far to take the fight to fund Obamacare subsidies.

Democrats led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had been demanding the subsidies be permanently funded in the final deal. But that position didn’t sit well with some Democrats who said they shouldn’t be negotiating on the issue at all.

“From my perspective, this is not a part of our negotiations,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Tuesday. “We’re not dealing on this. This is the law.”

The Trump administration can continue to supply the subsidies without congressional action, which most Democrats would ultimately accept. Schumer did not insist that the subsidies need to be included in the funding bill when asked directly on Tuesday afternoon, though a Democratic aide said it is both Schumer and Pelosi’s position that the spending bill “must include” a permanent commitment to the subsidies.

Senators also said that Trump will likely receive much of his request for nearly $30 billion in new defense spending. Appropriators are still negotiating a host of other issues.

“There are still many open items that are unresolved, which span the gamut of the 11 unfinished bills,” House Democratic appropriations spokesman Matt Dennis said.

Indeed, even with the border wall sticking point seemingly off the table, passage of a full-year spending package is not necessarily attainable by the Friday deadline, potentially requiring a short-term continuing resolution to buy more time for negotiations.

Congressional leaders are still hoping for enactment of an omnibus, with updated funding, rather than a long-term stopgap that drags out current spending levels through the end of September. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it may be a couple days before a deal is struck, making it difficult to finish the larger bill this week.

The bill is also likely to include money to help Puerto Rico with a Medicaid shortfall, aides said.

Seung Min Kim, Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris, Louis Nelson, Josh Dawsey and Colin Wilhelm contributed.

Read more : http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/25/budget-deadline-unresolved-issues-237580

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