‘Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. So that’s that…’
(Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call) The new House Democratic majority passed two government funding bills Thursday to open shuttered federal agencies that President Donald Trump has said he will not sign, as Republicans predicted the partial government shutdown will be a long one.
Before the votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that Democrats will not agree to a border wall but joked that she’d give Trump $1 for it.
“A dollar?” the California Democrat said when asked if there was any situation in which she’d even accept $1 for the wall. “A dollar. One dollar, yeah, one dollar.”
In a more serious posture, Pelosi went on to vehemently reject the idea of funding the wall, which she says is immoral and ineffective.
“We’re not doing a wall,” she said. “Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. So that’s that.”
Trump has said he will not sign legislation that does not include border wall funding, thus creating the ongoing impasse that has led to a 13-day partial government shutdown.
The House first passed a bill 239-192 to reopen the Department of Homeland Security with a continuing resolution lasting through Feb. 8. Five Republicans voted with the Democrats.
The Homeland bill is where debate over border funds occur, and Democrats argue a stopgap extending fiscal 2018 funding would bide them time to continue negotiations while keeping the government open.
The second measure the House passed provided funding through fiscal 2019 for the six annual appropriations bills that have yet to be signed into law that have nothing to do with the border security debate. Democrats feel the roughly dozen agencies funded under these measures shouldn’t be held hostage over the border wall debate.
But Trump and congressional Republicans have rejected both Democratic bills — which contain no money for a border wall, just a continuation of the $1.3 billion authorized for fencing in fiscal 2018 — as show votes, not a serious attempt to reach a solution.
Both sides seem dug in and no new offers have been exchanged among principal negotiators since Vice President Mike Pence floated $2.5 billion as a compromise to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last month.
Reports have suggested Democrats rejected the offer outright, but Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the White House walked back Pence’s offer before the vice president had even left the Capitol complex after making it.
“I didn’t reject it out of hand. He didn’t make it to me,” Pelosi said of Pence. “But before his wheels were even up off the Capitol the White House was saying, ‘We reject that, we’re not going below $5 billion.’ … Now they’re saying $5.6 billion. So they weren’t even on the level with the vice president’s offer that he made.”
Democrats have said they would want to hear any offer directly from the president. Trump has invited the top eight congressional leaders in both parties to the White House Friday to continue negotiations, after hosting them Wednesday for a border security “briefing” that yielded no progress.
Part of the problem in coming to a deal, Democrats say, is that Trump often changes his mind. Pelosi and Schumer haven’t gotten over his reversal of a promise he made to them about backing a deal involving permanent legal status to young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers.”
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a conservative ally of Trump’s who has urged the president to hold firm on securing wall funding, blamed the Democrats for the impasse.
While there have been a lot of discussions taking place about ideas for reopening the government, Democratic principals have not shown a willingness to negotiate, providing the “foundation for a very long shutdown,” the North Carolina Republican said.
“The impasse is very real and very deep seated,” he said, noting it could last for months.
Meadows said he’s reached out to the Democratic principals and received responses but did not elaborate.
Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mark Walker also said there are no signs that the stalemate will end soon.
“I think we’re going to be dug in for a while,” the North Carolina Republican said. “Unlike funding for this issue or that issue … this is about securing the American people, about them keeping them safe.
“We have the data to show that and I don’t know why the DHS has taken so long to get the numbers out,” he added.
Walker said the fact that Democrats in previous Congresses have supported funding for border fencing makes it easier for Republicans to win the argument.
“Democrats have tried to make the wall have a different connotation of something negative, and we don’t see it that way,” Walker said. “We’re negotiable in what kind of structure that is. We just want to keep the American people safe.”
Indeed, the impasse is more than about whether to fund a wall or fencing — or even steel slats, as Trump has recently referred to the border structure he’s seeking.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the new Democratic chair of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security funding, said there are other pressing needs for the billions of dollars that Trump wants to put toward the wall, like money to hire more customs agents and buy a heavy ice breaker for the Coast Guard.
“Even if we wanted and agreed on a wall, we still could not set aside billions of dollars and still meet the national security needs that we need in the Homeland,” the California Democrat said.
Pelosi reiterated that point and said she thinks Trump’s obsession over the wall is not actually about securing the border.
“This is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the president is creating here. It’s a wall between reality and his constituents and his supporters,” she said, listing a number of grievances with the president’s policies. ”He does not want them to know how he’s hurting them, so he keeps the subject on the wall. He’s a master of diversion.”
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