President Trump tells GOP leaders he won’t sign bill to avoid shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has told congressional Republicans he “will not sign” a spending bill passed by the Senate to avoid a partial government shutdown Friday, and he’s citing an impasse over money for a border wall with Mexico.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says after leaving a meeting with Trump at the White House that he and other leaders are going to go back to Capitol Hill to “work on adding border security” to the legislation.
Trump is facing a backlash from conservative supporters who’ve urging to him to stick with an earlier pledge to force a shutdown in hopes of securing money for his long-promised border wall.
Trump “does not want to go further without border security,” including the wall, said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday. The president was meeting with House Republicans as he weighed his options before the shutdown deadline at the end of Friday.
The president, tweeting about his frustration, complained that he “was promised” by congressional leaders that the wall and border security would be “done by end of year (NOW).”
“It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries – but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!” he wrote.
Conservative allies are urging him to veto any deal that doesn’t include the wall money he is demanding. They say he will have even less leverage when Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3. They also worry Trump’s failure to make good on his signature campaign promise could hamper his re-election campaign.
As the chorus of discontent echoed on Twitter and Fox News, Trump tweeted angrily at Democrats: “I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security.” He also argued that border security is “tight” due to military and law enforcement efforts.
Throughout Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, “Build the wall!” was a rallying cry. Trump supporters sought to remind him of that as they pushed him to veto the short-term plan.
On “Fox and Friends” on Thursday, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said: “If we’re not going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”
Trump is hardly the first president to be confronted with the challenges of passing a legislative priority through Congress. But the lack of progress on an issue so closely identified with his bid for the White House may prove to be a costly failure.
He had promised to begin working on an “impenetrable physical wall” along the southern border on his first day in office, but little headway has been made. A March bill included money for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of barrier construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, but work there has yet to begin. Other work has merely replaced existing barriers that had been deemed “ineffective,” not added miles.
Some of the president’s allies accused him of “caving” on the wall now. They warned of the potential backlash from supporters and the impact it could have on his 2020 re-election effort. The failed promise, they argued, could weaken turnout and leave him more vulnerable to challengers.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter published a column that called Trump “gutless” and said in a radio interview that she won’t vote for Trump in 2020 if he doesn’t deliver on the wall.
“Nor will, I think, most of his supporters. Why would you?” she asked, arguing that Trump’s time in office will one day go down as “a joke presidency that scammed the American people.”
Some within the administration cautioned that it was possible Trump would change his mind and end up rejecting the stopgap bill, prompting a holiday shutdown that could prove politically damaging. Trump had said last week that he would be “proud” to have a shutdown to get Congress to approve a down payment on the wall.
Trump had originally demanded $5 billion to begin building the wall this year, but White House officials said earlier this week that he was willing to settle for far less. The temporary measure offers just $1.3 billion for border security fencing and other improvements. That money cannot be used for new wall construction.
The president had been thought to have little choice. Even in the GOP-controlled House, Trump did not have the votes to get $5 billion in wall money, and House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to bring it to the floor.
The White House was instead putting its faith in a potential work-around, with Trump telling allies he’ll be able to go around lawmakers by using the military to fund and carry out construction. Such a move would face significant pushback from Congress as well as legal challenges.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC that there has been strong opposition to using Defense Department dollars for border wall construction. And he said that Trump can’t do so without lawmakers’ permission.
The president’s conservative backers insist that Trump should not back down from his demand for $5 billion from Congress.
“Trump should not sign this bill and leave for Mar-a-Lago, and tell them it’s not gonna get signed and their precious government’s not gonna get back up and running ’til there’s $5 billion,” wrote radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Former Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett said it was too soon to panic.
“He must have a trick up his sleeve because I can’t imagine he would just walk away from it,” Bennett said.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that while the base would be “unhappy” if border wall funding isn’t included in a final budget deal, it will make little difference come 2020.
“The other side doesn’t even need a border,” he said. “Their party will be so pro-illegal immigration that the choice will be enormous.”
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report