- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2018

Under pressure from conservatives, President Trump said Thursday he would veto a stopgap spending bill unless Congress added money for his border wall — dooming a bipartisan compromise worked on in the Senate and putting the government careening toward a partial shutdown.

Mr. Trump’s veto vow sent House Republicans scrambling. They wrote a new bill that added $5.7 billion in additional border security to a measure that would fund dozens of other departments and agencies at their current levels through Feb. 8.

The bill passed the House on a 217-185 vote and heads to the Senate for a high-noon showdown Friday. Absent action, much of the government will run out of funding hours later at midnight.

“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “It has to. Not for political purposes but for our country, for the safety of our community.”

But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said there’s no chance the new bill passes in the Senate. He said the House GOP’s move was an exercise in futility.

He and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats’ leader, said the right choice was to pass the “clean” bill that cleared the Senate on a bipartisan voice vote Wednesday. That funds the government through Feb. 8 — averting a Christmastime shutdown — and puts off a border wall battle until then.

“The president is doing everything he can to shut the government down,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The turmoil on Capitol Hill helped stocks continue a December nosedive, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling nearly 500 points.

Mr. Trump set the chaos in motion when he told GOP leaders at a White House meeting that he would veto any spending bill that didn’t including his wall money.

That was a reversal from earlier this week, when the White House had said Mr. Trump could sign a bill without the money, particularly since he’d asked his Cabinet to try to scrounge cash from their own budgets to use for wall-building without needing to get new money from Capitol Hill.

It’s not clear what changed — although a round of complaints from conservative pundits, including a withering column by Ann Coulter predicting Mr. Trump’s re-election loss in 2020, may have played a role.

Whatever the trigger, by Thursday morning talk of scrounging money elsewhere was gone, and the president said Congress must pony up.

“If we don’t stand strong for our national borders, then we cease to be a nation and we betray our commitment to the loyal citizens of our great country,” the president said.

Thursday’s House vote was a victory for conservatives, who had predicted wall money could pass — Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer had told the president last week the House wouldn’t be able to muster the votes.

“We have a president who ran on this issue,” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who rallied Republicans to back the new bill. “This is about getting back to rule of law. This is about keeping America safe.”

Republicans also defeated Mrs. Pelosi’s effort to fund the government all the way through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2019, and said the only option left was for Democrats to accept border security.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they “have to decide whether or not they hate the president more than they love this country.”

Conservatives were reveling in the chaos Thursday, thrilled they’d pushed Mr. Trump into a veto threat showdown. They are convinced that with Democrats poised to hold the majority in the House next year, Republicans’ negotiating stance would be even weaker than it is now.

“Too many Americans are dying because of our lack of border security. In my judgment it’s imperative that we do something about it,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican.

Dissenters within the GOP, though, said a minority of ultraconservatives appeared to be steering the ship.

“Our leadership was perfectly ready and prepared to proceed with a clean continuing resolution, and a minority of our majority has now created a situation where that’s no longer happening,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Republican.

Many senators had figured they were done for the year after they approved the spending bill sans border money late Wednesday.

Some have skipped town — even though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had warned that they had to see how the House would handle things.

Congress has already approved five of the 12 annual funding bills for 2019, which cover roughly 75 percent of the federal government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget, including the departments of defense, labor, and health.

But negotiations over the remaining seven bills, which cover departments like Treasury, Commerce, and Justice, have stalled out amid Mr. Trump’s demands for $5 billion in new money for his desired U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The House-passed bill also includes an additional $7.8 billion for disaster relief, which some southern lawmakers had demanded.

Rep. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican, said the responsibility for the last-minute scramble falls on his party’s congressional leadership and predicted little would change once Democrats take control of the House next year.

“None of this has to happen,” Mr. Amash said. “We know all year that we have to pass appropriations, and we have to do a better job of being fiscally responsible.”

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