WASHINGTON — A week and a half into a partial government shutdown, House Democrats released their plan to re-open the government without approving money for President Donald Trump’s border wall. At the same time, the president struggled to find leverage to break the stalemate before the GOP’s monopoly on Washington power ended.
Democrats in the House unveiled two bills Monday to fund shuttered government agencies and put hundreds of thousands of federal workers back on the job. They planned to pass them as soon as the new Congress convened Thursday, one of the first acts after Democrats took control, according to an aide who was not authorized to discuss the plan and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Whether the Republican-led Senate, under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would consider the bills — or if Trump would sign either into law — was unclear. McConnell spokesman Donald Stewart said Senate Republicans would not take action without Trump’s backing.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign,” Stewart said.
Even if only symbolic, the passage of the bills in the House would put fresh pressure on the president. At the same time, administration officials said Trump was in no rush for a resolution to the impasse.
After early threats to shut down government over the wall, Trump now believes he’s public opinion on his side and, at very least, his base of supporters behind him, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Trump spent the weekend saying that Democrats should return to Washington to negotiate, firing off Twitter taunts. He then revised his aides’ comments to state that he really still wants to build a border wall.
“An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides).”
Later Monday, Trump tweeted, “The Democrats will probably submit a Bill, being cute as always, which gives everything away but gives NOTHING to Border Security, namely the Wall.”
Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview Monday that he was “ready, willing and able” to negotiate. He added: “No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security and the wall is a big part of border security.”
White House officials, including his departing chief of staff, had indicated that Trump’s signature campaign pledge to build the wall would not be fulfilled as advertised. Chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of “a solid concrete wall early on in the administration.”
The Democratic package to end the shutdown would include one bill to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels, with $1.3 billion for border security — far less than $5 billion Trump has said he wants for the wall — through Feb. 8 as talks continued.
It would also include another measure made up of six other bipartisan bills — some that have already passed the Senate — to fund the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others closed by the partial shutdown. It would provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to Sept. 30.