- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2018

Republicans and Democrats alike are brushing aside President Trump’s demand for an infusion of cash for his border wall in this year’s spending bills, saying the fight is not worth a government shutdown in an election year.

Republicans met with Mr. Trump last week to talk over issues in the 2019 spending bills, and the president made his pitch for an increase, saying he wants to speed up plans.

Asked by a reporter whether it was worth shutting down the government over, the president said, “We’ll see.”

“There’s a plan for another $1.6 billion, but I’d like to ask this room if we could increase it,” he said. “I think in light of what’s happened with the drugs, with the human smuggling, with all of the problems, we have to have the wall.”

One lawmaker said he suggested a $5 billion figure for 2019.

Lawmakers, though, have him not to expect that kind of cash, saying the $1.6 billion his budget office asked for in its original budget request is probably the most they’ll be able to allocate.

And they said battling for more is not worth a showdown.

“We don’t want a shutdown. Democrats don’t want a shutdown — it’s in nobody’s best interest,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican and Appropriations Committee chairman.

He’s already written the Senate’s 2019 homeland security funding bill, with the $1.6 billion figure included.

The House has yet to release its version, and GOP leaders in the lower chamber may struggle to find agreement unless they can up the ante.

A recent compromise immigration bill unsuccessfully pushed by House GOP leaders would have authorized $2.2 billion for the wall in fiscal year 2019 and more than $23 billion in total.

Rep. John Culberson of Texas, who heads the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees money for the Justice Department, said he doesn’t expect there to be shutdown and that he hopes lawmakers can avoid another stopgap bill.

“We’re totally committed on the Republican side to get the wall built, and I’m optimistic we’ll find ways to get the president the help he needs,” said Mr. Culberson, who also sits on the homeland security spending subcommittee.

Somewhat cryptically, Mr. Culberson said appropriators can perform “magic,” and that he managed to prod President Obama’s Justice Department into changing its sanctuary city funding policy without the need for specific bill language.

“There’s ways you can get the wall built using the tools that appropriators have, working with a friendly administration — there’s ways to do things,” he said. “Don’t always look for bill language not always necessary.”

Still, Rep. Chris Stewart, Utah Republican, said a shutdown showdown isn’t out of the question.

He said the House’s recent failure to pass several border security and immigration bills could linger in the minds of members and potentially influence next year’s spending bills.

“Look, in this crazy world I wouldn’t say anything’s unlikely” any longer, he said. “There’s a lot of emotion around it.”

Much of that emotion comes from Mr. Trump and his supporters, who are still very much attached to his 2016 campaign promise for a “big, beautiful wall” separating the U.S. from Mexico.

Mr. Trump has failed to make progress on his vow of having Mexico foot the bill, but construction has begun on patches of wall upgrades that he says are part of his overall plans.

Democrats said they’re watching closely to see how much pressure Mr. Trump will put on congressional Republicans to add money for his priorities, including the wall.

“There may be some extraneous forces, some even down the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, who might want to blow this whole thing up,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois Democrat, said the House and Senate on their own can probably find a way to avert a shutdown but said Mr. Trump himself is a wild card in the equation.

“As unpredictable as the president [can] be, it’s anybody’s guess,” he said. “I think anybody predicting how the president’s going to act forgets just how unpredictable it’s been since he got here.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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