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White House digs in on border wall demand, risking shutdown

Published: Sunday, December 16, 2018 @ 10:31 AM
Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

The White House on Sunday pushed the federal government closer to the brink of a partial shutdown later this week, digging in on its demand for $5 billion to build a border wall as congressional Democrats stood firm against it.

"We're going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration," said White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.

Asked if that meant having a government shutdown, he said: "If it comes to it, absolutely."

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Trump said last week he would be "proud" to have a shutdown to get Congress to approve a $5 billion down payment to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But the president doesn't have the votes from the Republican-controlled Congress to support funding for the wall at that level.

Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have proposed no more than $1.6 billion, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. The money would not go for the wall but for fencing upgrades and other border security. Democrats also offered to simply keep funding at its current level, $1.3 billion.

Showing no signs of budging, Schumer said Sunday that it was up to Trump to decide whether parts of the federal government shut down at midnight Friday over his border wall, sending thousands of federal employees home without pay during the holidays.

About one-quarter of the government would be affected, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks.

"He is not going to get the wall in any form," Schumer said.

Both parties in Congress have suggested that Trump would likely need to make the next move to resolve the impasse. The House is taking an extended weekend break, returning Wednesday night. The Senate returns Monday after a three-day absence.

Trump had neither accepted nor rejected the Democrats' proposal as of Friday, according to the Democrats, telling them he would take a look. Trump will need Democratic votes either way, now or in the new year, for passage.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said Republicans remain hopeful they can come up with a proposal that can be acceptable to Trump and pass both chambers. He suggested that could take the form of a stopgap bill that extends funding until January, or a longer-term bill that includes money for border security.

"There are a lot of things you need to do with border security," he said. "One is a physical barrier but also the technology, the manpower, the enforcement, all of those things, and our current laws are in some ways an incentive for people to come to this country illegally, and they go through great risk and possibly great harm."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, urged senators to revisit a bill she helped push earlier this year that would provide $2.5 billion for border security, including physical barriers as well as technology and border patrol agents.

"There's absolutely no excuse to shut down government on this issue or any other issue," she said.

Schumer declined to say whether Democrats would be willing to consider proposals other than the two options that he and Pelosi offered.

Republicans "should join us in one of these two proposals, which would get more than enough votes passed and avoid a shutdown," Schumer said. "Then, if the president wants to debate the wall next year, he can. I don't think he'll get it. But he shouldn't use innocent workers as hostage for his temper tantrum."

Miller and Barrasso spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation," Schumer appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," and Collins was on ABC's "This Week."