Republicans anxious about keeping control of the US Congress think it is a bad idea, but US President Donald Trump continues to say that he is willing to close the government over border security issues, including funds that he needs to build a promised US-Mexico border wall.
“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
“Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT,” he wrote. “We need great people coming into our Country.”
Trump returned to the idea after a meeting at the White House last week with US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during which they were said to have agreed on the way forward on government funding for the budget year that starts on Oct. 1.
McConnell told a radio interviewer last week that a shutdown so close to the Nov. 6 midterm elections would not happen.
However, he added that the border funding issue was unlikely to be resolved before the balloting.
Ryan said on Capitol Hill after the meeting: “The president’s willing to be patient to make sure that we get what we need so that we can get that done.”
Funding for the wall is “not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment on what might have changed since the meeting.
Trump has pledged to campaign aggressively, starting after the US’s Labor Day holiday on Sept. 3, to help Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, but Republican lawmakers do not appear to be rallying to his side on this not-so-new idea.
US Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, on Sunday told CBS’ Face the Nation show that it would be unhelpful to shut down the government just before elections “so let’s try and avoid it.”
Trump campaigned on the promise of building a wall to deter illegal immigration and making Mexico pay for it. Mexico has rejected the proposal.
Trump has gotten some funding from Congress and likely will get more, but the total is short of the US$25 billion that he has requested.
He also wants changes to legal immigration, including scrapping the green card lottery program.
In addition, Trump wants to end the practice of releasing immigrants caught entering the country illegally on the condition that they show up for court hearings, along with shifting the US immigration system to one based more on individual merit and less on family ties.
Democrats and some Republicans have objected to those proposals.
Both chambers will have a short window to act before government funding expires at midnight on Sept. 30.
The House is in recess and is not to return until after Sept. 3. The Senate is to stay in session for most of next month, except for a week-long break scheduled to begin on Monday.
McConnell has canceled most of his chamber’s recess to give senators time to work on the annual spending bills.
Trump would be taking a political risk if he allows most government functions to lapse on Oct. 1, about one month before the elections, when Republican control of both the House and Senate is at stake.
Democrats have long opposed financing Trump’s wall, but do not have enough votes by themselves to block House approval of that amount.
However, they do have the strength to derail legislation in the closely divided Senate.
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