Christmas Shutdown Threat Will Come Down to Border Talks Between Trump, Chuck, and Nancy

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Congress sent President Trump a continuing resolution today to fund the government for two more weeks, setting up an appropriations showdown over a border wall that would fall just before Christmas.

Congress had planned to leave for the holiday break on Dec. 14, returning after the New Year to swear in the 116th Congress and a Democratic majority in the lower chamber.

The extension to keep the government open was quickly approved today in the House and the Senate. The holdup over a final bill is border wall funding.

The House included $5 billion for border security in its funding bill, while the Senate version includes $1.6 billion. Trump wants $25 billion; Congress has not yet approved any money to begin work on any of the wall prototypes Trump was shown in California earlier this year.

“Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he expects the impasse to be worked out between Trump and Chuck and Nancy — the president was scheduled to meet with Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.) this week, but that was postponed because of the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

Schumer said on the Senate floor today that Trump holding firm on $5 billion or more for a wall would mean a government shutdown.

“First, when President Trump proposed this as a candidate he said ‘mark my words: I will have Mexico pay for that wall.’ The idea that the American taxpayer now has to foot the bill doesn’t make sense. Second, there is no plan for the wall. They haven’t said where they want to build it, how high it is – I don’t like any wall, let me make that clear. But how can you spend $5 billion when there is no plan? It shows that this is just political fodder for President Trump. It appeals to his base, but he doesn’t even care that much that his whole government, his whole administration, hasn’t submitted any specific plans,” Schumer said. “And third, last year we put $1.3 billion in homeland security for border security. Not a nickel of that has been spent on a wall. It couldn’t be; the language didn’t allow it. But virtually none of it has been spent at all.”

“They still have that $1.3 billion they haven’t even spent that vast majority of, and already they’re demanding $5 billion more? Some would even say demanding $1.6 billion more is too much, but the idea that they haven’t spent last year’s money and they’re demanding such a huge amount this year makes no sense at all.”

Schumer said the lack of planning or use of non-wall security funds shows that a wall is “a throwaway idea to fire up his base” and added that if “Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision.”

He argued that Congress should vote on the six appropriations bills on which there’s bipartisan agreement and punt the Homeland Security funding with a continuing resolution.

At her weekly press conference, Pelosi said that on the funding bills “we have before us all of the factors, all of the issues that we need to make a decision.”

“And I think what we can do that makes sense is to pass the six bills where the members of the Appropriations Committee have come to terms,” she said. “You’ve heard me say it over and over; left to their own devices the appropriators can come to a good conclusion, and then have a CR only for Homeland Security as we go forward. And that’s pretty much where our position is now.”

“Most of us–speaking for myself–consider the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive. And the president said he promised it. He also promised Mexico would pay for it,” Pelsoi added. “…We have a responsibility, all of us, to secure our borders, north, south and coming in by plane on our coasts, three coasts, north, south and west, and that’s a responsibility we honor. But we do so by honoring our values as well.”