Donald Trump

House adds $5b to spending bill after Trump complains it lacks border wall money; but threat of federal shutdown still looms

  • Bill must return to the Senate, where it is unlikely to find Democratic votes needed to pass it before a deadline at midnight on Friday
  • Trump opposed original over billions of dollars lacking for ‘steel slats or a wall’ at the Mexican border
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 4:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 9:26pm

The US House of Representatives on Thursday added US$5 billion to a government spending bill for President Donald Trump’s wall on the southern border with Mexico, a move that boosted the odds of a partial federal shutdown on Saturday.

The bill must return to the Senate, where it is unlikely to find the Democratic votes needed to pass it. If the impasse continues, funding for agencies responsible for federal law enforcement activities, airport security screenings, space exploration and farm programmes will lapse at midnight on Friday.

The White House suggested earlier that Trump was not on-board because it lacked billions of dollars for “steel slats or a wall” at the Mexican border.

“The president said he will not sign this bill,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said after a hastily called meeting with Trump and other Republican Party lawmakers at the White House.

Trump lashed out at Republican leaders on Twitter after a phone call with Ryan. Then Trump’s press secretary issued a statement saying the president “does not want to go further without border security”, including money for the wall.

Trump has faced rare, bitter criticism from some fellow Republicans over the past day for “caving” on wall funding.

As House Republicans struggled to find the votes to pass the Senate bill, Trump started blaming Republican Party leaders for failing to deliver on the US$5 billion he demanded for the wall.

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Ryan had promised a “big fight” after the midterm elections, but as Republicans lost House control, negotiations over the year-end spending bill have largely been between Trump and Democrats.

“I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership,” Trump tweeted soon after calling Ryan. “Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries – but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”

The day’s schedule was thrown into chaos. A morning press conference of Republican Party leaders was abruptly cancelled as lawmakers filed out of a basement meeting to head to the floor for other matters. Voting was not set.

“Republicans are in a state of disarray,” said House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become speaker when Democrats take control on January 3. “Wall funding is a non-starter.”

The temporary funding bill would keep government running to February 8, but some House Republicans say it is better to fight for the border wall now, before they relinquish their majority to Democrats in the new year.

Republican Representative Warren Davidson said some Republicans want to “continue to fight for wins we promised the American people we would get”.

“I don’t know anybody that’s ready to vote for this,” he said.

Without a deal, more than 800,000 federal workers would face furloughs or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas.

Additional reporting by Reuters