Donald Trump

Trump threatens government shutdown if he doesn’t get US$1.6 billion for Mexico border wall funding

Most US presidents try to avoid government shutdowns. Not Donald Trump.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 1:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 10:33pm

US President Donald Trump has threatened to bring the US government to the brink of a shutdown if needed to pressure Congress into funding the border wall that was a centrepiece of his 2016 campaign.

Delivering a warning to Democratic lawmakers who have objected to his plans to construct a wall along the US-Mexico frontier, Trump called them “obstructionists” and said that it was time for the US to crack down on illegal immigration.

“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump told thousands of supporters gathered Tuesday in Phoenix for a campaign-style rally.

“One way or the other, we’re going to get that wall.”

Watch: Trump visits border patrol unit in Arizona

Trump has asked for US$1.6 billion to begin construction of the wall, with Congress under pressure to pass some kind of spending bill to keep the government open after September 30.

But Republicans in Congress haven’t shown much appetite for fighting to spend potentially billions more on a border barrier either. The funding would add to the deficit at the same time Republicans are trying to figure out how to pay for tax cuts.

The issue could also get wrapped up with legislation to raise the federal government’s debt limit, which needs to be raised between late September and mid-October to avoid a default. 

One option being considered by GOP leaders is attaching a debt limit measure to the stopgap spending bill that will probably be considered next month. Under that scenario, Trump’s threat to shut down the government over the border wall could entangle the debt ceiling debate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday in a speech that he sees “zero chance” that Congress won’t lift the debt limit.

Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said at the same event that he will run out of authority to stay under the limit late next month and his priority when Congress returns in early September is ensuring it’s lifted.

Inside a partially filled Phoenix Convention Centre, Trump was given a hero’s welcome from supporters who chanted “USA! USA! USA!” and waved signs reading “Drain the Swamp”, “Make America Strong Again” and “Make America Proud Again.”

“You were there from the start, you’ve been there every day since, and believe me Arizona, I will never forget it,” Trump said at the start of his remarks, referencing a large crowd he drew at the site early in his campaign.

His crowd Tuesday night numbered in the thousands but did not completely fill the hall at the convention centre.

Before his arrival, Trump travelled to Yuma, Arizona, where he received a closed briefing on border protection – something he touts as being among his administration’s successes – and greeted Marines and their families, signing a couple of autographs on camouflage hats.

During his speech, Trump also repeated his call for a historic tax cut. While he provided no details of any planned legislation, he urged congressional Democrats to support it. Democratic senators in states he won should be particularly wary, Trump said.

Most Senate Democrats have said they’ll refuse to support any tax legislation that provides a tax cut to the highest earners.

“The Democrats are going to find a way to obstruct,” Trump said. If so, he told his supporters, they’ll be preventing Americans from receiving a “massive tax cut.”

This was Trump’s ninth rally in the state – and his fourth at the Phoenix Convention Centre.

His first event at the convention centre was on July 11, 2015, a few weeks after he announced he was running for president and gave a rambling speech that cast undocumented immigrants as criminals and “rapists”.

Although those remarks prompted criticism and led several corporations to cut their business ties with him, the support for his campaign was evident in Phoenix, where he had to upgrade to a larger venue and then still had to turn away many supporters – a turnout that shocked many Arizonans.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post