US govt shutdown feared as Trump, foes spar over wall

December 21, 2018

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump and congressional Democrats stood at stark odds Thursday as the president balked at a spending stopgap that contains no border wall funding, leaving the US government on the verge of a Christmastime shutdown.

The unpredictable leader’s rejection of a measure that unanimously passed the Senate and was under consideration in the House plunged Washington into political chaos barely 24 hours before a midnight Friday deadline for funding to expire for key agencies.

Trump appeared to harden his demand for $5 billion in funding for the wall on the US-Mexico border, something he has fought for since he began campaigning for president in 2015.

Republican leaders had planned to pass a so-called continuing resolution (CR) that would fully fund the government until February 8 to allow time for debate about issues including border security.

But with ultra-conservative lawmakers and media personalities effectively demanding that the president stick to his campaign promises, Trump doubled down.

“I’ve made my position very clear. Any measure that funds the government has to include border security,” he said at a White House event.

“Walls work, whether we like it or not,” he added. “They work better than anything.”

Democrats have refused to budge, saying they will not support a spending measure that funds Trump’s wall.

“That’s a non-starter,” said top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi. “I think they know that.”

Republicans nevertheless soldiered on, crafting a new measure that would appease the president’s demands. It includes $5.7 billion in border wall funding, and $7.8 billion in disaster relief.

The bill passed the House, but with no Democratic support.

“Thank you to our GREAT Republican Members of Congress for your VOTE to fund Border Security and the Wall,” Trump tweeted Thursday night.

“The final numbers were 217-185 and many have said that the enthusiasm was greater than they have ever seen before. So proud of you all. Now on to the Senate!”

But the bill will be dead on arrival in the 100-member Senate, where bills need 60 votes to advance and Republicans control 51 seats.