Even after President Donald Trump tweeted, “Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL,” the Senate’s top Democrat is sounding optimistic that the commander-in-chief has caved.
“I want to say that it’s really good news that the president seems to be taking the wall off the table in the negotiations we’re having on an appropriations bill this week,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “It would remove the prospect of a needless fight over a poison pill proposal that members of both parties don’t support.”
Funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would assuredly derail talks over developing an omnibus spending package to fund the government for the balance of fiscal 2017, and it appears to be the most contentious issue on the table.
The White House had confirmed that Trump said at a reception with conservative journalists on Monday that he might be willing to seek funding for his signature wall again in the spending debates at the end of the current fiscal year.
In addition to the White House’s $3 billion request for enhancing border security, the administration asked for $30 billion more for defense needs during fiscal 2017, which began on Oct. 1.
Lawmakers and the Trump administration have until Friday night to get an agreement on funding signed into law to avert a government shutdown, and senators were talking late Monday of a one-week continuing resolution to give time to get any agreement through.
That is in part because legislative leaders opted to take a two-week Easter recess despite the self-imposed funding deadline, with the House not due back voting until Tuesday evening.
Members of the House and Senate appropriations committees have largely completed their portion of the work, with issues being kicked up to the leadership level.
Democrats have proposed funding for Medicaid support for Puerto Rico as well as the cost-sharing subsidies under the 2010 health care overhaul be included in the package. Lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee signaled Tuesday morning there was a way forward for addressing health benefits due to coal miners.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, highlighted some of those debates during his remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday.
“On the non-defense side, miners is very important on our side, getting permanent health care for these miners who have struggled their whole lives. The issue of cost sharing, where six million people could lose their health care because it would become unaffordable. And the issue of Puerto Rico, which is struggling,” Schumer said. “And there are other issues to resolve as well, but I’m hopeful we can address them as the week moves forward.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for his part, said, “I look forward to more productive conversation with senators, our House colleagues and the White House so we can get this important work done quite soon.”
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for a response to Schumer’s comments Tuesday morning.
— John T. Bennett contributed to this report.