WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that President Donald Trump would not sign a spending bill meant to avert a government shutdown if it didn’t include money for his border wall, substantially raising the possibility that the government enters a partial shutdown over the Christmas holidays.
Trump indicated in a White House meeting with Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that he wouldn’t sign a temporary appropriations bill without border wall funds in return. Trump has been shaky on another continuing resolution (CR) without wall money for some time, but he signaled Wednesday that he would probably sign such a bill. By Thursday, he had already changed his mind.
The White House suggested earlier in the day that the president was unhappy with the legislation and had begun blaming Republican leaders for “caving” on funding for his plans for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries - but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump and reaffirmed the president’s position. “At this moment, the president does not want to go further without border security.”
Trump may still end up signing the CR, but it appears now that House Republicans will first try to pass a funding bill that includes wall money. That may also still be tough. If the legislation to keep some agencies open past Friday does include wall funding, it’s unlikely that a single Democrat will vote for the bill. That would leave Republicans on their own to pass the measure ― and a healthy number of GOP absences makes that difficult.
There’s also the question of how many Republicans would vote against wall funding on policy concerns. There are at least a few House Republicans who have previously indicated they’re opposed to paying for the wall, and conservatives who generally oppose funding bills on spending concerns have indicated they would only support a CR if it included wall money and asylum policy changes.
Conservatives may already be backing off those policy riders. Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told HuffPost Thursday afternoon that he could potentially see conservatives backing off those earlier demands in the interest of trying to get the wall. But Republicans could shortly find themselves in the same position later Thursday, unable to pass CR with wall funding on their own, and with a president who’s signaling opposition to any other bill.
Republicans could always pass the clean CR that the Senate passed by unanimous consent Wednesday night, but they would be doing so over the objections of the president and likely more than half of the GOP conference.
Trump would then be in the awkward position of vetoing the legislation, or simply pocketing it and letting the clock run out on this Congress ― all while some government agencies are closed down over the holidays and workers aren’t receiving their paychecks.
Democrats, meanwhile, are sitting by watching Republicans squirm.
Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed her GOP colleagues Thursday morning for being in the midst of a party “meltdown,” and she once again indicated wall funding was a “non-starter.”
“They have a lot of people who are missing, who are absent here, so they never did have the votes for their wall,” Pelosi said. “But they now don’t even have a full complement of members here.”
If the government does shut down, thousands of federal workers will be sent home without pay beginning Saturday. The partial shutdown would affect about 25 percent of federal workers, but key functions of the government will remain open, including the military.