President Trump declined to rule out vetoing a spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown if the measure does not include funding for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Lawmakers and the White House have through Friday to reach a deal to keep federal agencies open, but so far the administration and congressional Democrats are refusing to budge on the controversial wall issue. Trump told the Associated Press in an interview published Monday he was not sure if he would sign a bill that did not contain wall funding.
“I don't know yet,” Trump said when asked if he would sign such a shutdown-averting deal. “People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall. My base really wants it.” He added he did not “want to comment.”
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Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney expressed a similar view on Fox News Sunday, saying the White House did not know yet if it would demand wall funding in exchange for Trump’s signature. Mulvaney added he would negotiate with Democrats rather than on television.
“We are asking for our priorities,” Mulvaney said. “I would say ... they’re holding hostage national security.”
Trump and Mulvaney have also said they want funding for the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of the appropriations deal. They are asking for $3 billion for the Homeland Security Department overall to spend by Sept. 30, as well as $30 billion for the Defense Department.
DHS Secretary John Kelly struck a slightly different tone on CNN, saying he “would expect [Trump will] be insistent on the funding” for the border wall. Mulvaney recently said the consequences of a shutdown “have been blown out of proportion.”
Democratic leaders told reporters Monday that congressional negotiators were making good progress and were on track to reach a deal before the White House intervened. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted Trump’s “insistence on the wall is a sign of weakness, robs children of investments in their future and has bipartisan opposition.”
The White House has begun at least the formal procedures to prepare for a shutdown, convening a call with agency leaders to instruct them to update their contingency plans. Mulvaney said on Friday he was confident a shutdown would be avoided but prudent planning required the preparations.
After Democrats previously threatened to allow the government to shut down if Republicans included Trump’s immigration and border enforcement policies in a spending bill, Republicans appeared to have capitulated by indicating they would deal with the administration’s supplemental request separately from the regular appropriations bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., assured his fellow Republicans over the weekend they would stave off a shutdown, according to Politico.