Facing a December 21 funding deadline, the top two Democrats in Congress go to the White House on Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump, with little in the way of obvious answers on how they will find middle ground on the President’s demand for $5 billion in a year-end funding deal to build the President’s wall along the border with Mexico.
“When President Trump proposed this as a candidate, he said, ‘Mark my words, I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall,'” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said in recent days, making it clear his party wants no part of funding the wall.
“Most of us, speaking for myself, consider the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, as she and other Democrats keep reminding the White House that this was not what the President promised during the 2016 campaign.
“The President said – he promised – he also promised Mexico would pay for it,” Pelosi told reporters.
What Democrats say they will accept is funding for the Department of Homeland Security totaling $1.6 billion again in 2019 – but that would be for the more generic ‘border security’ like fencing – but not for the border wall.
“The $1.6 billion cannot be used to construct any part of President Trump’s 30 foot tall concrete border wall,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The hard truth for the White House is that Republicans would be hard-pressed to approve a bill in either the House or Senate which has money for the border wall right now – let alone find the 60 votes needed in the Senate to advance such a plan.
That’s why Democrats have proposed letting Congress agree to final deals worked out on six major funding bills for the federal government – and just leave in place the 2018 budget for the Department of Homeland Security – which has no money for the border wall.
That is not acceptable to the President, one reason there is a chance for a funding lapse on December 21, and a partial government shutdown.
“Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill,” the President said in a speech in Kansas City last Friday.
“We have to, we have to get this done,” as the President took aim at Democrats and their opposition to the wall.
“They’re playing games. They’re playing political games,” Mr. Trump added.
And for now, it is a game of Legislative Chicken, with a December 21 deadline fast approaching.