Lawmakers Gridlocked over Wall Funding as Deadline Nears

Kristina Peterson, Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2018

Lawmakers began grappling in earnest Tuesday with how to avoid a partial government shutdown next month but remained at odds over funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.

Republicans discussed the idea of spreading out President Trump’s request for $5 billion for the border wall over two years, but Democrats quickly shot down that idea. And House GOP leaders, who met with Mr. Trump at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, indicated that he remained fixed in his position for now.

“President Trump’s been very adamant that we need to get the $5 billion for border security,” House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) said as he returned from the White House. “That’s something we’re very committed to following through on.”

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Mr. Trump has threatened to shut down the government by refusing to sign a spending package that doesn’t include $5 billion for the border wall. Democrats, although willing to support more money for tighter border security, have said they oppose $5 billion for construction of a physical wall.

“The $1.6 billion for border security negotiated by Democrats and Republicans is our position. We believe that is the right way to go,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday.

Lawmakers said that they had ironed out nearly all of the major disagreements on the seven expiring bills, except for the clash over the border wall.

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The two chambers have staked out different positions on wall funding, reflecting their different political environments. Spending bills need 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate, where Republicans currently hold 51 seats. In the House, Republicans only need a majority to pass legislation, but immigration has been a divisive issue among the GOP for years, and they could lose centrist Republicans on a spending bill that would construct a border wall.

The House bill authorizing Homeland Security Department funding would direct $5 billion for the border wall, while the Senate version set aside $1.6 billion.

One idea under discussion among Republicans is to divvy up the $5 billion over two years, according to GOP lawmakers and aides. While this session of Congress couldn’t bind next year’s House, which will be under Democratic control starting in January, the GOP calculus is that once funding is in current law, it becomes harder to remove. {snip}

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But House and Senate Democrats poured cold water on the $5 billion sum for the border wall.

“We’ve already put together our proposal in the Senate package,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It has a lot of border security money in it.”

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