WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Capitol Hill today that he’s hoping to find agreement with President Trump to avoid shutting down the government just before midterm elections.
“If we don’t get border security, after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown. It’s time we had proper border security. We’re the laughingstock of the world. We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world,” Trump declared at a Monday press conference.
The president is seeking $25 billion for a border wall in this year’s appropriations, along with other previously stated immigration priorities including ending family reunification and the diversity visa lottery. Before leaving for the August recess, House appropriators approved $5 billion for 200 miles of border wall, funds scraped from raiding budgets of other homeland security agencies such as the Coast Guard. That’s unlikely to pass in the Senate.
The Senate stayed in session to work on nominations and appropriations bills. The deadline for a shutdown looms at the end of September, but depending on the order in which lawmakers process appropriations bills GOP leadership could push the homeland security bill — and the border wall debate — until after midterms.
“I’ll always leave room for negotiation. But this has been many years; this isn’t just Trump administration,” Trump said. “I would be certainly willing to consider a shutdown if we don’t get proper border security.”
Today, Trump took his case to Twitter: “I don’t care what the political ramifications are, our immigration laws and border security have been a complete and total disaster for decades, and there is no way that the Democrats will allow it to be fixed without a Government Shutdown,” he tweeted. “Border Security is National Security, and National Security is the long-term viability of our Country. A Government Shutdown is a very small price to pay for a safe and Prosperous America!”
Outside of a policy luncheon today, McConnell noted that the upper chamber is “on the road to approving four appropriation bills, and we have an agreement with the Democrats to take up in a few weeks a combination of labor aid and defense.”
“Our hope is by the end of August, the Senate will have approved nine of the 12 appropriation bills, which would mean that 17 — that’s 90 percent — it’ll mean that 90 percent of the funding of the federal government from a Senate point of view will be done through the regular order before we get to Labor Day. We hope to be able to conference those bills with the House and send the president a series of conference reports covering those nine of 12 appropriation bills early after we get back from the Labor Day weekend break,” he said.
“Also this week, we’re going to go to conference on the Farm Bill, as well and I hope to be able to conference that. The leaders of the House Ag Committee are committed to staying in touch, even though they are taking a six week break and we hope to be able to present that conference report on the Farm Bill to both bodies shortly after the Labor Day weekend.”
Asked why the president was tweeting more shutdown threats after conferring last week with congressional GOP leaders, McConnell said he supports “what the president’s trying to do on the wall.”
“Most of my members do as well, and we’re trying to go through a normal appropriations process that prevents a big event at the end of the fiscal year, which has become all too common around here,” he said. “We’ve funded in the Senate the president’s initial request. We’re going to continue to discuss it with him and hope that in the process here we can achieve what he would like to achieve on the wall and also get these appropriation bills signed into law, which would be quite different from what’s happened in the past.”
The GOP leader noted that “the House is taking a different approach, so clearly we’re going to have to reconcile these differences in order to actually function and get these bills signed before the end of the year.”
On Trump’s latest shutdown tweet, McConnell said, “I’m hoping we’re going to be able to resolve this issue.”
“We know it’s important to him,” he added. “Most Republicans, including myself, agree that we ought to fund the wall and we’re going to try to achieve that in the course of a regular order process. It’s all unfolding before you, and hope we don’t get to that position at the end of the fiscal year.”