WASHINGTON – Efforts to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown collapsed Thursday when President Donald Trump said he would not sign a Senate-approved measure because it doesn’t include enough money for a border wall.
“The president said he would not sign this bill,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said after a small group of House Republicans huddled with Trump at the White House. “He will not sign the bill that came over from the Senate last night.”
The fate of the bill was thrown in doubt amid resistance by hardline conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus who complained that the legislation does not include $5 billion in funding that Trump is demanding for a wall along the nation’s southern border.
The spending measure punts a decision about border wall funding until next year, when Democrats will return to power in the House, making it unlikely that Trump will get the money he wants.
Ryan, following the White House meeting, said Republicans “want to keep the government open, but we also want to see an agreement that protects the border. We have very serious concerns about securing our border.”
The bill, which would fund nine federal departments and several smaller agencies at their current levels through Feb. 8, cleared the Senate late Wednesday on a voice vote and had been expected to win approval in the House.
Funding to keep the government open will lapse at midnight Friday unless Congress and the White House reach a deal to extend it.
Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted about his demands for border wall funding but did not specifically comment on the Senate passage of the short-term funding bill to keep the government in business through early February.
“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries - but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!” he wrote.
After Trump's meeting with House Republicans, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement saying that "not surprisingly, they all feel strongly about Border Security – stopping the flow of drugs, stopping human trafficking, and stopping terrorism."
"We protect nations all over the world, but Democrats are unwilling to protect our nation," she said. "We urgently need funding for border security and that includes a wall."
Hardline conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have been urging Trump to fight for border wall funding and to veto any spending measure that doesn’t include the money. Freedom Caucus members Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio were among the Republicans at the White House meeting with Trump on Thursday.
The spending bill could be the last chance to win the funding, Freedom Caucus members argued, because the House will fall under Democratic control in January and Nancy Pelosi will return as speaker.
“We’ve been telling the American public that we were going to fight, they have no reason to believe us now,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., a Freedom Caucus member.
Republican congressional leaders, however, said the short-term spending measure is the only way to avoid a government shutdown heading into the holidays.
"We don’t want to end this year the way we began it, with another government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who pushed the temporary funding bill.
Gosar countered that a government shutdown over the holidays may actually show “we don’t need all this big government.”
Said Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry, R-Penn.: “We made a promise to the American people to secure the border. This is our last chance. Nancy Pelosi will not do this.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both said Democrats have no intention of approving money for a border wall.
"In terms of wall funding, that’s a non-starter," Pelosi said.
Conservatives are "angry and mad, so they pound their fist on the table...," Schumer said. "Their anger will result in a Trump shutdown, but not a Trump wall.’’
To avoid a shutdown, the House must pass and Trump must sign the short-term funding bill by midnight Friday, when one-quarter of the government will run out of money. Unless the funding is extended, nine departments and several smaller agencies will run out of money and will be forced to close their doors. As many as 800,000 federal employees would be placed on furlough or would be forced to work without pay.
Congress is scrambling to pass a short-term spending bill because lawmakers still haven’t passed seven of the 12 appropriations bills that are needed to fund the government for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
The seven remaining bills would fund nine departments – Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development – as well as several smaller agencies. Those are the departments and agencies that would be impacted by a government shutdown.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said that while he would have preferred to pass all seven of the funding bills that have yet to be enacted into law, “there is still a broad ideological divide when it comes to our borders.”
A short-term funding bill gives the White House and lawmakers time “to come to a responsible compromise that puts the security of our nation first.," he said.