Trump Plays Budget Hardball in Congress to Build Border Wall

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President Donald Trump’s budget director is threatening to withhold funding for Obamacare subsidies unless Democrats agree to help fund the border wall in the 2017 budget supplemental.

The offer follows weeks of determined Democratic opposition — amid determined waffling by top GOP leaders — to any funding for Trump’s wall during this year.

“We have our list of priorities,” budget director Mick Mulvaney said at a business conference on Thursday. He continued:

Won’t surprise anyone what some of them are. We want more money for defense. We want to build a border wall. We want more money for immigration, law enforcement. The Democrats may have some of their own priorities. I [already] indicated making some of these payments for the Obamacare subsidies is one of their priorities. Okay, that’s fine. We’re willing to be at that discussion if they want to have it and that’s what we’re telegraphing … we understand they have a certain amount of leverage in the Senate because we do need 60 votes [to get funding]. So we need some sort of bipartisan support in the Senate. They are entitled under that set of circumstances to get some of their priorities funded. It is ripe for some type of negotiated agreement that gives the president some of his priorities and Democrats some of their priorities. We think we’ve opened the door [to a compromise]. I know that we have.

Democrats may be open to that compromise. On Wednesday, the Democrats’ Senate leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters that Democrats are trying to preserve funding for Obamacare. “We’re working hard to get it in the bill. We’re very hopeful, negotiations seem to be going quite well … We want to make a good budget that meets our principles … so far, so good,” he said, according to a report from

Democrats will pay a price for obstructing Trump’s priorities, Mulvaney warned.

If [Democrats] tell us to pound sand, I think that’s probably a disappointing indicator of where the next four years is going to go. If they tell us, however, that they recognize that President Trump won an election, and he should get some of his priorities funded for that reason, elections have consequences, as folks who win always like to say.”

For months, GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have declined to champion funding Trump’s wall in the 2017 budget supplemental, which is due April 28. Trump has asked for roughly $1 billion to install or upgrade roughly 60 miles of border walls and fences this year. 

GOP leaders are reluctant to fund the wall, in part, because they don’t want to trade some of their budget priorities to persuade the Democrats to compromise on their full-throated opposition to Trump’s wall. Many Democrats fervently oppose the wall, which would literally and symbolically cement his 2016 victory and also block the migration of consumers, cheap workers, and future voters into Democratic-dominated cities. 

Also, GOP leaders know their business donors oppose the wall, which would reduce the inflow of illegal-alien consumers and workers to the corporate members of the many Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States.

Democrats know the GOP leaders are not willing to champion’s Trump’s wall, so they are escalating their opposition to Trump’s wall and his border reforms, such as greater enforcement of current laws. For example, Democrats are threatening to block all budget funding — and so shut down many government agencies — unless they get their way.

On Wednesday, Schumer said all extra immigration funding should be held up until the next round of budget debates in the fall of 2017.  “We think that the immigration issue should be discussed in the 2018 budget where there’s votes and discussion and nothing should be shoved down people’s throats and that would apply to the many immigration issues that are before us, not just the wall,” Schumer said in a press call. BNA reported: 

Billions of dollars for the wall and other funds that Trump wants to boost enforcement have emerged among the “poison pill” riders that Schumer said could threaten passage of the omnibus by the time federal money runs out at midnight April 28. The government is operating under a stopgap continuing resolution because only one of the 12 fiscal 2017 bills was enacted last fall.

Schumer suggested that Democrats have considerable leverage in the talks over the details of the omnibus, which have continued during lawmakers’ two-week recess.

“Our Republican colleagues know they control the House, the Senate, the White House [and] a shutdown would fall on their shoulders and they don’t want it,” Schumer said.

On multiple occasions, GOP leader Ryan has said the Trump wall will be funded in the 2018 budget starting in October, while hinting it will get little funding for construction in 2017.  This month, Officials at the Department of Homeland Security 

However, officials at the Department of Homeland Security have been told by GOP budget leaders that they can reprogram some of their existing funds to pay for construction of prototype wall designs in June. 

In his Wednesday call with reporters, Schumer gloated that the GOP leaders are not supporting Trump’s budget request.  “I think there’s agreement, quiet agreement in the [GOP and Democratic budget leaders], that if the president doesn’t interfere and insist on poison pill amendments [funding for the wall] to be shoved down the throats of the Congress, we can come up with an agreement.”

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC or email the author at


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