Trump presses GOP for more border-security money, undercutting compromise
President Trump pressed Republican senators Monday to add more border-security and wall funding to a homeland-security spending bill, expressing dissatisfaction with a bipartisan compromise struck by GOP senators aiming to avoid a government shutdown this fall.
“The president is focused on border security, and he’d like more money. We talked to him that we thought this was a good down payment,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters after meeting with Trump along with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who chairs the panel’s Homeland Security subcommittee.
Shelby said the president didn’t indicate whether he would be able to live with the committee’s agreement. The senators tried to impress upon the president that they needed to reach a bipartisan agreement, which limited what they could do, Shelby said.
The senators warned Trump against a government shutdown.
Government funding runs out on Sept. 30, and it’s uncertain what will happen then if Trump is still pushing for more border money than Congress has agreed to. Trump has repeatedly promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal Democrats have rejected and fought against funding. If the president refuses to sign a spending bill needed to continue government operations, the result would be a partial shutdown just ahead of the midterm elections that will decide control of Congress.
“We did talk about a shutdown, that a shutdown’s in no one’s interest,” Shelby said.
Shelby said the president did not indicate whether he agreed. “We didn’t ask him to agree,” Shelby said. In the past, Trump has suggested that he might welcome a “good shutdown.”
Shelby declined to say exactly how much money the bill commits to the border for the 2019 budget year. The White House had initially requested $1.6 billion for a variety of border security elements, including building the wall Trump has pushed for — the same amount Congress committed in the 2018 budget year. But White House officials later indicated they wanted more than that, around $2.2 billion. However, that higher request was never formally transmitted to Congress.
Shelby said the administration would be getting more than it had last year. But that apparently wasn’t enough for Trump, who at times has demanded $25 billion for the wall.
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised the wall would be paid for by Mexico.
“I told him we were trying to work to achieve border security, too,” Shelby said. “But we want to keep the appropriations process going and this is a way to keep it going.”
The meeting about border funding occurred against the backdrop of a roiling debate over the administration’s decision to begin separating immigrant children from their families arriving at the border. White House officials insist it’s Congress’ job to fix the issue through legislation, and the House will be voting on immigration bills this week, though they appear unlikely to pass.
But that issue did not arise as Shelby and Capito met with Trump, both senators said. Instead they were focused on funding levels in the annual spending bill for Homeland Security operations, which Capito’s subcommittee is scheduled to vote on Tuesday.
Senators and House members have been trying to get their annual government funding process back on track after dysfunction in recent years. They want to avoid presenting Trump with a mammoth spending bill at the end of the fiscal year. Trump vowed in March, after suffering conservative blowback for signing an enormous $1.3 trillion spending bill that busted spending caps, that he would never sign another such bill.