Shutdown Looms as House Backs Trump Border Funds Senate Opposes
(Bloomberg) -- The House increased the chances of a partial U.S government shutdown by voting to give President Donald Trump funds for his proposed border wall in a spending bill the Senate is sure to reject hours before a midnight Friday deadline.
The 217-185 House vote Thursday capped a tumultuous day in which Trump surprised fellow Republicans by insisting he won’t sign a bill without the border money, after the White House had hinted he would accept it. Now, the House and Senate have passed spending measures that differ in one crucial way -- the House bill includes the $5 billion Trump is demanding for a wall and the Senate version, passed a day earlier, does not.
Trump says he’ll only sign a spending bill with the border money, and senators of both parties say there’s no chance their chamber will change its position and fund a wall. Without an agreement nine government departments will close at midnight Friday.
"It’s a straight up vote, you are either for border security or you are against border security," third-ranking House Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana said shortly before the vote.
U.S. stocks turned sharply lower after Trump hardened his demands. Oil headed for a 10 percent slide this week.
Trump is "plunging the country into chaos," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters.
"Does he not believe in government? Does he not care about the American people?" asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who is likely to become speaker when Democrats take the chamber’s majority in January.
Trump won’t travel as planned to his Florida resort for the holidays if there’s a shutdown, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the White House.
Trump’s wall plan had deep support among Republican voters, but a majority of the wider electorate opposes him, polls show. The president hammered on the border security issue in the weeks leading up to the November midterm elections, in which Republicans lost a net 40 seats in the House, turning over control to Democrats.
The Senate is scheduled to convene at noon Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is almost certain to advance the same measure, without wall money, that the GOP-controlled chamber easily passed by voice vote Wednesday.
The Senate bill would keep the government agencies open through Feb. 8, and is intended to delay a fight over the wall funds until then.
"This was one of the most chaotic weeks we’ve ever seen in American government," Schumer said. Also on Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his retirement, citing differences with Trump a day after the president abruptly called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.
House GOP Meeting
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and his leadership team had begun the day Thursday planning to hold floor votes on the Senate’s spending package. But Ryan came under heavy criticism from conservatives during a private party meeting and then was called out to speak to Trump on the phone, several lawmakers said.
Ryan -- who has been busy giving a series of farewell speeches in recent weeks as he plans to leave office -- canceled a scheduled press conference before he and other House GOP leaders were summoned to the White House.
Trump during the meeting said he would not sign the Senate-passed measure, prompting Republicans to rewrite the bill.
“Nancy Pelosi said we don’t have the votes to pass it and we’re going to prove her wrong," said Scalise. He said passage creates a “clear contrast” with Senate.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina conservative, played a key role in advising Trump to take a stand along with conservative pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
“The president is more in sync with the American people than people give him credit for," Meadows said after Trump issued his veto threat.
The economic effects of a shutdown over the Christmas and New Year holidays may be limited. Seventy-five percent of the $1.2 trillion federal discretionary budget has been funded through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
Without a spending bill, about 400,000 "essential" employees like border guards and airport screeners would continue to work without pay while about 350,000 other workers would be sent home. Federal grants, loans and purchases would also cease for the areas of the government affected.
As House Republicans settled on their plan to fight for Trump’s wall, some Republican senators expressed frustration over the dispute and Trump’s shifting signals over whether or not he would sign legislation to keep the government open.
Asked if he believes Trump might still sign a stopgap bill without wall funds, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said, “Who knows?”
“Does the person sitting beside him at the White House know?" Corker said. "Who would know?”
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