Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 7 News List

US government shutdown looms over wall financing

TEMPER TANTRUM:Trump thanked US representatives who supported funding for border fencing, but Democrats said threatening a shutdown would ‘not get him his wall’

AFP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump and Democrats in the US Congress on Thursday stood at stark odds as the president balked at a spending stopgap that contains no border wall funding, leaving the US government on the verge of a Christmas shutdown.

The unpredictable leader’s rejection of a measure that unanimously passed the US Senate and was under consideration in the US House of Representatives plunged Washington into political chaos barely 24 hours before a midnight deadline yesterday for funding to expire for key agencies.

Trump appeared to harden his demand for US$5 billion in funding for the wall on the US-Mexico border, something he has fought for since he began campaigning for president in 2015.

Republican leaders had planned to pass a so-called continuing resolution that would fully fund the government until Feb. 8 to allow time for debate about issues including border security.

However, with ultraconservative lawmakers and media personalities effectively demanding that the president stick to his campaign promises, Trump doubled down.

“I’ve made my position very clear. Any measure that funds the government has to include border security,” he said at a White House event.

“Walls work, whether we like it or not,” he added. “They work better than anything.”

Democrats have refused to budge, saying that they will not support a spending measure that funds Trump’s wall.

“That’s a non-starter,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said. “I think they know that.”

Republicans nevertheless soldiered on, crafting a new measure that would appease Trump’s demands. It included US$5.7 billion in border wall funding and US$7.8 billion in disaster relief.

The bill passed the House, but with no Democratic support.

“Thank you to our GREAT Republican Members of Congress for your VOTE to fund Border Security and the Wall,” Trump tweeted on Thursday night. “The final numbers were 217-185 and many have said that the enthusiasm was greater than they have ever seen before. So proud of you all. Now on to the Senate!”

However, the bill was to be dead on arrival in the 100-member Senate, where bills need 60 votes to advance and Republicans control 51 seats.

Trump also taunted Pelosi over comments she made last week that Republicans would not have the necessary votes in the House.

“Nancy does not have to apologize,” he said. “All I want is GREAT BORDER SECURITY.”

Senate Democrats were united in opposition as the likely showdown in that chamber yesterday loomed. Many senators from both parties have already left Washington for the holidays.

“President Trump is plunging the country into chaos,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, citing shutdown fears, fresh economic woes and the shock revelation that US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a stabilizing force in Trump’s administration, is to step down.

“The bottom line is simple,” he added. “The Trump temper tantrum may produce a government shutdown. It will not get him his wall.”

Fears of a shutdown — which could send thousands of federal employees home without pay just before Christmas — helped send US stocks tumbling, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 2 percent.

Trump had backed off his shutdown threat earlier this week, but it roared back to life as he accused Democrats of “putting politics over country” by not supporting a wall, which he insists would curb illegal immigration.

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