President Donald Trump laid down a key marker for the autumn federal funding debate, saying Monday he wants around $5 billion this year for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The demand could increase the odds of a government shutdown.
The amount he endorsed during a White House immigration event, which he also touted last week at a fundraiser in Utica, N.Y., is the same as that proposed in a House Homeland Security funding measure for next fiscal year. But there’s a catch: the Senate’s version of that funding measure proposes only $1.6 billion for the project.
Just how much border barrier funding Trump and his team — along with House and Senate conservatives — can squeeze out of Senate Democrats is likely to be one of the top issues lawmakers and the administration must work through as part of work on fiscal 2019 spending measures. Unless they decide to punt Department of Homeland Security funding until after November’s midterm elections, the White House and Congress could find themselves in a standoff late next month over the chambers’ $3.4 billion difference.
Trump’s embrace of the larger figure comes after senior Republican senators have repeatedly told him $1.6 billion is the most they can push through their chamber, where Democrats alone have the votes to sink spending bills. Some Republicans have expressed concern about the wall funding as well.
Democrats likely would demand a list of things in return — like at least votes on a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that shields 690,000 undocumented individuals from deportation. That program was created by then-President Barack Obama but set for termination by Trump.
A pre-election border wall funding and immigration policy fight would ignite passions on both sides just weeks before an election that will decide which party controls the House and Senate — and Trump’s agenda.
Just weeks ago, the GOP president declared in a July 30 tweet he would set off the third federal funding lapse of his presidency, saying he’d be willing to “shut down” the government “if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!”
But a day later, he softened his tone, saying at a joint press conference with the visiting Italian prime minister, “I always leave room for negotiation.”
As he often does at political and official events, Trump said the immigration issue is a “winner” for Republican House and Senate candidates.
“I think we’re going to do very well in the midterms,” Trump predicted, defying pollsters and political experts. “And this is one of the big reasons why: The fact is people respect law and order.”
Earlier, during a panel session at the same White House event, Georgia GOP Sen. David Perdue, a Trump ally, predicted the Senate could pursue immigration legislation following the November midterm elections.
Without getting into specifics, Perdue said he senses an “appetite” among his colleagues to move multiple immigration bills that address separate issues.