McConnell Puts Low Odds on December Shutdown Over Border Wall

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a partial government shutdown in December is unlikely and that he and President Donald Trump haven’t discussed using one to force Democrats to agree to fund a wall on the southern border.

"Nobody likes a shutdown," McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. "There’s no education in a second kick of the mule."

Trump who has repeatedly called for a "good shutdown" to extract concessions from Democrats on the border wall. But the Senate leader said the House Republican-inspired shutdowns during the Clinton administration backfired as did a Democratic attempt to use one more recently to extend protections for child migrants.

"We invented this back in the 1990s and it didn’t work well for us. Chuck Schumer tried it last January over DACA and he caved within a day and a half," McConnell said. "How many times do we have to figure out this isn’t going to work whether its a Democrat-inspired shutdown or a Republican-inspired shutdown?"

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Trump has demanded Congress fund border wall construction and has threatened to reject a funding measure needed to keep parts of the government running past Dec. 7 if he doesn’t get it. Trump made construction of a wall on the border with Mexico a centerpiece of his campaign.

“We haven’t talked about shutting down the government. We have talked about getting the wall funding for a year. The speaker and I both want to achieve that," said McConnell.

The White House and congressional Democrats haven’t been able to bridge their differences over wall funding. House and Senate Democrats back $1.6 billion for the current fiscal year and the White House has reduced its demand from $23 billion to $5 billion.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California last week introduced a bill that would authorize $5.5 billion in the first year with the rest of $23 billion coming in later years.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters last week he could see a compromise funding level higher than $1.6 billion but lower than $5.5 billion. He said the full $23 billion would be require a "quantum leap" to achieve given the current budget cap.

“That’s a lot of money and raises questions of what are you going to cut," Shelby said.

If there is a shutdown, it would be limited to agencies currently funded with a stopgap measure set to run out on Dec. 7, including the departments of Homeland Security, State, Commerce and Justice as well as the science agencies.

Front-line Homeland Security employees at the border and screening passengers at airports would work without pay, while grants and contracts would be held up.

Congress is trying to complete spending bills in November for agencies including the Treasury Department and financial regulatory agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the national parks. If that fails, those departments also would face closure as part of a border wall fight. Most of the Internal Revenue Service would be furloughed.

Other agencies already have been funded for the 2019 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, including the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services. Congress has passed 75 percent of the $1.2 trillion federal discretionary budget, and Trump signed the measures into law.

Trump signed the last spending bill after criticizing its lack of new money for the border wall.

"I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms? Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!" Trump tweeted Sept. 20.

McConnell took a more measured approach Tuesday.

"We do have 25 percent of the discretionary budget yet to be approved and we need to sit down after the election and figure out how to do that," he said.

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