By John T. Bennett and Jennifer Shutt, Roll Call
President Donald Trump indicated Monday that he might sign legislation that would avert a government shutdown even if lawmakers leave out the $1.4 billion he’s requested to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
A White House official confirmed to CQ Roll Call that during an evening reception for conservative media outlets, Trump said his administration might secure some border wall funding this week in an omnibus spending bill or try again in September. Lawmakers are negotiating a fiscal 2017 funding package and face a Friday deadline when a continuing resolution expires.
The reception was closed to the day’s media pool, mainstream outlets, and was initially off the record. The White House altered the ground rules after the event had concluded.
After reports of Trump’s comments came out Monday night and Tuesday morning, the president accused the media of reporting his comments as he no longer wanted the wall. The president promised the barrier will eventually be built, and will help stop drugs and other criminal activities.
Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2017
Trump’s comments at the reception could help appropriators and leaders finish bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on the 11 remaining fiscal 2017 spending bills before the Friday deadline. Democrats are adamantly opposed to wall funding.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer has repeatedly criticized the White House over its border wall funding request, but appeared pleased with Monday evening’s development.
“It’s good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues.”
Trump’s comments also clear up some of the speculation about whether Trump would sign a spending bill that does not allow construction of a wall in fiscal 2017.
On Sunday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney would not rule out a veto of a bill that did not include wall funds.
The border wall was a major campaign promise from Trump, who frequently fired up crowds at his campaign rallies by promising it would be built and that Mexico would pay for it. Since taking office, Trump has said that the U.S. would have to pay for some of the construction initially, but has remained adamant the country will be reimbursed. Details on how exactly that would happen remain unclear.
Trump continued to voice his desire for the wall earlier Monday.
“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!,” he tweeted on Monday morning. “If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall”
Trump’s comments during the Monday evening event are a slight departure from what he’s said since being elected and what White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Monday during the press briefing.
When asked if the administration was backing off its request for border wall funding, Spicer said: “No, we’re saying that the president has made very clear that he’s got two priorities in this continuing resolution: No. 1, the increase in funding for the military; and No. 2, for our homeland and border security and the wall.”
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.