House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that border wall funding remains the principle unresolved item in year-end spending negotiations and suggested that $1.6 billion is an agreeable figure for border security so long as the language does not require it to be spent on the wall.
“The $1.6 billion ... the language is broader than just a wall, so I think that that could probably be agreed upon, which was a figure in the Senate bill," the Maryland Democrat told reporters.
The problem is that President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing for $5 billion in wall funding. Some House Democrats prefer zero money be appropriated for the wall, and Hoyer suggested that the language can be drafted broadly enough to appease most of his caucus.
The Senate Homeland Security appropriations bill, which was reported out of committee but never debated on the floor, includes $1.6 billion for “approximately 65 miles of pedestrian fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”
How congressional negotiators bridge the gap between $1.6 billion and $5 billion remains to be seen. They’ll have an extra two weeks to figure it out as Congress is planning to pass a stopgap funding bill extending current funding, which is set to expire Friday, through Dec. 21.
The House is not holding roll call votes this week due to George H.W. Bush lying in state in the Capitol rotunda and his funeral proceedings later this week. The chamber will likely pass the two-week continuing resolution on Thursday by unanimous consent, Hoyer said.
Hoyer said he and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi preferred a one-week stopgap so that Congress could wrap up its work next week, which is when the House had been scheduled to adjourn for the year
“I’m hopeful we can do that,” he said.
Seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills are running on a continuing resolution and should Congress not act by their new deadline of Dec. 21 or continue to kick the can down the road there would be a partial government shutdown.
Trump has said he is willing to shutter government agencies to secure the $5 billion he wants for the border wall.