Can conservatives vote for a government spending bill that does not include funding for a border wall?
That’s the question House Freedom Caucus members asked themselves Wednesday night as they debated how best to show President Donald Trump that they back his border wall proposal — given that the funding bill is not expected to include money the Trump administration had requested for the wall.
They are likely to have more time to work out an answer. A short-term continuing resolution to maintain government operations through May 5 was introduced late Wednesday.
Several Freedom Caucus members told Roll Call after the meeting that they’re wrestling with which vote — a “yes” or a “no” – would show the most support for Trump and better the chances the wall be funded down the road.
Trump has apparently agreed to drop demands to fund the wall in the current fiscal year and to push for wall funding in fiscal 2018. So a “yes” vote could signal that conservatives support the president, something they’re still cautious about ensuring they do after Trump pointed blame at the Freedom Caucus for the health care impasse (their position on that shifted in Trump’s favor earlier Wednesday).
But a “yes” vote on the spending bill could also send the wrong message that conservatives don’t care about funding the wall. And a “no” is certainly more in line with where conservatives are expected to be given that many of their priorities appear to be already off the table.
“We don’t get the border wall and we don’t get Planned Parenthood funding — that’s great; sign me up,” Freedom Caucus board member Scott Perry said. Although his sarcastic tone was clear, he clarified that he’s “not happy” about the deal that’s being discussed.
“It ain’t over yet,” he said.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told Roll Call the group did not take an official position on the spending bill, which has yet to be released, but that they discussed how best to show support for the president on the border wall.
“There is a real concern that voting for a CR that doesn’t fund the border wall sends the entirely wrong message on behalf of conservative thought,” he said.
The border wall is not the only issue of concern for conservatives. They would also like to see language prohibiting federal funds for sanctuary cities, especially in light of the recent District Court ruling against Trump’s executive order that sought to prevent assistance to sanctuary cities, Meadows said.
“Both of those things have to be addressed and need to be addressed,” the North Carolina Republican said.
The question remains whether to push for these things in fiscal 2017 or live to fight on them another day, especially on the wall, which was one of Trump’s top campaign priorities.
“We have to figure out a way to make sure that he funds it, and make sure that we don’t allow 48 Democrats in the Senate to control the next four years,” Meadows said.