Bush Funeral to Bring Only Brief Respite in Trump Shutdown Fight
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump and members of Congress are poised to shelve a budget fight that risks a partial shutdown of the U.S. government at the end of the week, in order to pay their respects to late President George H.W. Bush.
That comity isn’t expected to last long.
The Dec. 7 deadline to renew funding for agencies including the Internal Revenue Service and Homeland Security Department is widely expected on Capitol Hill to pushed back by one week, although Trump has floated the idea of extending it until Dec. 21. Lawmakers, especially lame-duck members, are eager to leave town, and a deadline right before Christmas risks forcing Congress to work through the holidays.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto a bill extending the expiring funding if he doesn’t get the $5 billion he wants for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats, whose votes are needed to enact spending bills, have refused to supply that level of funding unless Trump agrees to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
“We would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Either way, people will NOT be allowed into our Country illegally!”
All eyes will be on Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had been scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the spending standoff. That’s been postponed until after Wednesday’s funeral services at the Washington National Cathedral for Bush, who died at his home in Houston on Friday at age 94. No new date has been set.
About a quarter of the government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget remains unsettled for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Congressional negotiators say they’re making steady progress resolving differences over line-items in the budgets of the departments of Treasury, State, Commerce, Justice, Interior and Agriculture as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. The main problem area is the Department of Homeland Security and Trump’s demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border.
Congressional Republicans have attempted to persuade Democrats to compromise by providing $2.5 billion in wall funding in the coming year, and another $2.5 billion the year after. But so far, Democrats have refused.
Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor Thursday that the $1.6 billion for border security agreed to by Republican and Democratic senators in a draft bill is “our position” and any shutdown will be Trump’s fault.
Democrats say they have the upper hand because Trump has threatened a shutdown repeatedly in the past over the border wall and backed down.
“We are in a very strong position,” said Representative Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat who’s in line to chair the House Appropriations Committee beginning in January.
In the House, more liberal Democrats are urging Pelosi not to compromise on the wall after the party won control of the chamber in Nov. 6 midterm elections. She’ll need those lawmakers’ votes in her bid to return as speaker when Democrats take over in January.
Representative Raul Grijalva, a progressive Democrat from Arizona, said he could be open to a higher level of border security funding if Republicans agree to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. “Absent that, what’s the point?” he said.
Lawmakers seeking to avoid a messy holiday-season showdown say they hope Schumer and Trump are taking the lead in negotiations. The two attempted to craft a large-scale immigration deal in February, which failed after Trump was pressured by conservatives into seeking additional changes to legal immigration.
“That’s more posturing than anything,” said Representative Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican who has served in Congress for two decades.
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