Trump signals delay on border wall funding to avoid government shutdown
Donald Trump has indicated he is willing to delay his demand for funding of his Mexican border wall to avoid a .
Trump, in a private meeting with conservative media outlets, said he might wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts on 1 October to seek government funds for building a wall along the US-Mexico border, the White House confirmed.
The border wall spending is and also unpopular with many Republicans.
Trump, whose approval ratings have steadily declined since he took office, is facing a deadline on Friday for Congress to pass the spending bill funding the government through to September or risk marking his 100th day in office on Saturday with a government shutdown.
The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, who has a key role providing Democratic votes to pass the legislation, welcomed Trump’s reported shift on the wall.
“It’s good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations,” Schumer said late on Monday.
“Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues.”
The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, said: “The president’s comments this evening are welcome news given the bipartisan opposition to the wall, and the obstacle it has been to the continuing bipartisan negotiations in the appropriations committees.”
Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress, a funding bill will need 60 votes to clear the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats, meaning at least some Democrats will have to get behind it.
If no spending measure covering 29 April to 30 September is in place by midnight on Saturday, government funds will halt and hundreds of thousands of the country’s several million federal employees will be temporarily laid off.
Those in jobs deemed essential such as law enforcement are expected to keep working in the hope they will receive back pay. Non-essential sectors such as national parks are liable to be closed and programs such as federally funded medical research will grind to a halt.
Failure to approve a government funding bill could also throw new doubts over Republicans’ ability to fashion a budget blueprint for the next fiscal year or to succeed in a major effort to cut corporate and individual taxes that Trump has touted.
Trump’s border wall was a central campaign pledge that he still insists will pay for in the end, though Democrats and even most Republicans doubt that will ever come to pass.
Cost estimates range beyond $20bn and the White House had been seeking $1.4bn as a down payment in the spending bill.
Congressional leaders will likely have to decide by late on Tuesday whether negotiations are progressing enough to try to pass a spending bill funding the government through September, Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership and Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday.
If negotiations have slowed or stalled Congress could pursue a short-term extension of existing spending levels to avoid a government shutdown, giving lawmakers more time to reach a deal. Leading Democrats have said they would support such a measure only if talks are progressing.
Trump has argued that a wall along the US-Mexico border is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States. In a Twitter message on Monday, Trump wrote: “If... the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!”
Earlier on Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump’s demand that Congress include funds for the construction of the wall remained a White House priority.
“The president has made very clear that he’s got two priorities in this continuing resolution: number one, the increase in funding for the military and number two, for our homeland security and the wall,” Spicer told reporters.
The White House was confident in the direction of the talks and an announcement was expected soon, Spicer said, although he declined to say specifically whether Trump would sign a bill that did not contain money for border security and the wall.
Trump has said Mexico will repay the United States for the wall if Congress funds it first. But the Mexican government is adamant it will not provide any financing and Trump has not laid out a plan to compel it to pay. Department of Homeland Security internal estimates have placed the total cost of a border barrier at about $21.6bn.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report