‘I would absolutely consider it and probably give it…’
(Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times) With President George H.W. Bush lying in state in the Capitol rotunda for much of the week, Congress is considering extending a Dec. 7 deadline and giving itself up to two more weeks to pass spending bills needed to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security and several other agencies is set to expire Friday evening, and Congress is openly arguing with the White House over how much to provide for the president’s border wall. But all involved seem inclined to avoid a bitter spending debate so close to Bush’s death and during a period of mourning.
President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday on Air Force One that he was open to delaying the spending fight for up to two weeks, opening the possibility of a shutdown just days before Christmas.
“If they [lawmakers] come, which they have, to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing,” Trump said, “I would absolutely consider it and probably give it.”
Congress passed bills to fund defense, education and other areas of government before the midterm elections, but they still haven’t agreed on funding for the departments of Homeland Security, Interior, State, Justice and others.
A major sticking point is whether Congress will include $5 billion for the president’s signature issue, a wall along the southern border.
Trump had previously promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but now he is asking U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill, insisting that Mexico will be forced to reimburse the U.S. for the cost. Mexico has said it will never pay for the wall.
Trump has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he might veto the spending bill and allow the government to shut down if Congress passes it without the $5 billion for the wall.
A planned meeting at the White House on Tuesday between Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Charles E. Schumer of New York was postponed because of the funeral arrangements, according to a senior Democratic aide. Schumer and Pelosi have requested it be rescheduled for next Tuesday, after the current deadline.
Schumer and Pelosi negotiated a spending deal in 2017 during a White House meeting with Trump.
There’s little time on the House and Senate calendars to reach an agreement before the current Dec. 7 deadline.
Leaders of both chambers have yet to sign off on a temporary stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution.
The House and Senate have canceled all votes until Bush’s casket leaves the Capitol on Wednesday.
The federal government is closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning.
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