WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump is threatening a government shutdown if congressional Democrats do not give in to his demands to fund a border wall in a spending bill next month, but Democrats do not appear to be backing down.
“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said during a Tuesday rally in Phoenix, Arizona, suggesting that he would allow a shutdown come October if a U.S.-Mexico wall was not funded.
Democratic leaders responded swiftly Wednesday morning making it clear that the inclusion of wall funding in a bill to keep the government open would be enough for them to vote no.
“If the President pursues this path, against the wishes of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as the majority of the American people, he will be heading towards a government shutdown which nobody will like and which won’t accomplish anything,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also issued a statement, saying Democrats would “stand fast against the immoral, ineffective border wall and the rest of Republicans’ unacceptable poison pill riders.”
“Make no mistake,” Pelosi added, “the President said he will purposefully hurt American communities to force American taxpayers to fund an immoral, ineffective and expensive border wall.”
Democrats didn’t get into specifics about whether there was some small amount of money they could accept towards Trump’s wall. But one leadership aide pointed out that the agreement in April during the omnibus stipulated that there would be no new fencing or concrete used for construction, while funding for replacement fencing was fine.
Wall funding on a continuing resolution, this senior Democratic leadership aide said, was a “non-starter.”
Congressional leaders and the president haven’t really begun negotiations on the continuing resolution ― or, for that matter, the debt limit, which the U.S. government is due to hit some time in October ― but Democrats have been emphatic for months that they would not vote for a spending bill that funds new construction on a wall.
That position could put Republican leaders in a tough spot, as they could end up negotiating with Democrats and the president.
“The President said he will purposefully hurt American communities to force American taxpayers to fund an immoral, ineffective and expensive border wall.”
Trump does not seem like he’ll back down easily on the wall, which is perhaps his most memorable campaign promise ( that Mexico was supposed to pay for). But Republicans need Democratic votes to pass a continuing resolution ― at least eight of them to reach the 60-vote procedural threshold in the Senate. On top of those votes, however, if lawmakers combine the debt limit and the continuing resolution into one legislative vehicle, Republicans will likely need substantial support from Democrats to pass the bill.
There are many Republicans who will not support a debt limit increase without substantial changes to our spending or the way we prioritize debt payments. That means it’s Democrats who will likely be supplying a healthy chunk of the votes for this expected government funding/debt limit bill. Democrats could drive an even harder bargain by insisting that Obamacare subsidy payments be included in that bill, further complicating the votes on the Republican side.
One easy compromise would be for Democrats to get the so-called cost sharing reductions in the bill and for Republicans to get at least some portion of wall funding. But Democrats aren’t signaling any willingness to make a deal like that, even if the amount for new wall construction is paltry.
Meaning that, if Trump and Democrats are serious that they’ll shut down the government over the wall, that’s the direction we’re headed in.
Democrats firmly believe Trump and Republicans will take the blame for a shutdown (as well as a debt default). It is, Democratic aides will remind you, Republicans who control all levers of the federal government. And Trump would have a lot more trouble touting the success of the stock market if we reached a debt default or shutdown and stocks began to tumble.
But the pressure to come up with some deal, even one that gives Trump just a pyrrhic victory on the wall, could be substantial come Oct. 1 when agencies close their doors. Many congressional Republicans might come around to the idea of just keeping the government open with an even shorter-term continuing resolution ― one that only extends funding for, say, a week ― but Trump could put his foot down and veto that bill.
If he did, with at least some congressional Republicans supporting a short-term measure to get it to Trump’s desk, it’d be hard for the administration to argue this was Democratic obstruction causing a shutdown, though Trump and other Republicans will surely do just that.
But Republican congressional leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have to decide who they serve in this debate, and whether they’re willing to put a bill that doesn’t fund the wall on the president’s desk.
When asked about whether Republicans would hold strong on the wall, Ryan’s office told HuffPost that Ryan will hold a press conference later in the day about tax reform.
McConnell’s office has not responded to a request for comment.