Shutdown talks collapse: Trump won't sign spending bill without wall money

Key Points
  • President Trump won't sign a Senate-passed spending bill without border wall money, House Speaker Paul Ryan says.
  • Parts of the government will shut down if lawmakers cannot fund them before midnight Friday.
  • House Republicans aim to add $5 billion in border wall funding to the Senate-passed bill, but Democrats have pledged not to back money for the barrier.
Government shutdown edges closer as Trump and lawmakers clashes over border wall
Government shutdown edges closer as Trump and lawmakers clashes over border wall

President Donald Trump will not sign a Senate-passed spending bill, increasing the chances of a partial government shutdown.

The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Wednesday night to keep the government funded through Feb. 8. With Trump's support, it appeared set to breeze through the House before the midnight Friday deadline to fund seven agencies that make up about a quarter of the government.

But Trump, who seeks $5 billion to build his proposed border wall, will refuse to sign the measure without his desired border security measures, House Speaker Paul Ryan said after a meeting with the president on Thursday. Trump's decision throws more chaos into the late scramble to keep the government running through Christmas and into the new year.

"We just had a very long, productive meeting with the president," Ryan told reporters after House Republicans met with Trump for more than an hour. "The president informed us that he will not sign the bill that came up from the Senate last evening because of his legitimate concerns for border security."

At a bill signing Thursday afternoon, Trump laid out in more detail why he would not back the legislation. He said "any measure that funds the government must include border security." He pushed for a wall — "also called, so that I can give them a little bit of an out, steel slats."

"Hopefully, that will all come together," he said.

President Donald J. Trump speaks during an interview with Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. 
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Trump's desire for border wall funding leaves the path forward for Congress unclear. As House Republicans tried to head off conservative members' rebellion against the spending bill earlier Thursday, both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer flatly said Democrats would not approve money for the barrier.

Ryan, standing next to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said the leaders are "going to go back to the House and work with our members" on a solution that includes border security funding. The House later unveiled a bill that includes more than $5 billion in wall money and more than $8 billion in disaster relief funding.

A vote on the proposal will likely take place Thursday night. Pelosi tried to force a vote on the Senate-passed version Thursday afternoon, but Republicans sank her effort.

"We believe there is still time," McCarthy said after the White House meeting. Republicans do not have a plan beyond the potential Thursday night vote, according to NBC News. Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators to prepare for a potential vote at around noon Friday, according to reports.

It is unclear what spending plan would pass Congress and get Trump's signature, at this point. Even if the GOP-controlled House approves border wall money, Democrats could sink the proposal in the Senate. Numerous lawmakers, including some who lost elections in November, have already left Washington, complicating matters. And Trump is scheduled to leave Washington on Friday for a vacation at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Pelosi and her caucus supported the short-term spending bill that Trump said he would not sign. Earlier Thursday, she called wall money a "nonstarter." If all Democrats support the Senate-passed measure, it would need limited Republican votes to get through the House.

If the government does shut down, the effects would likely be limited, as lawmakers have already funded five agencies including the Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services. Important law enforcement agents would stay on the job.

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Still, the government likely would not open again until after Jan. 3, when the new Congress starts. A "long" shutdown "might show up" in an upcoming government jobs report, White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett told CNBC on Thursday.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if Congress does not pass money for the wall, a key campaign proposal that he claimed Mexico would fund. Last week, the president said he would be "proud" to close parts of the government if lawmakers did not approve funding for the barrier.

House GOP leaders hoped to pass the short-term spending bill and push the next immigration fight to February, when Democrats will control the House and Pelosi will likely be speaker. But they could not assure skeptical caucus members that Trump would sign the bill into law.

Trump allies in the Conservative House Freedom Caucus agitated for the president not to give up the wall fight. Two of the members of the hard-line group — Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan — were reportedly attending the White House meeting along with House Republican leaders.

Earlier, Schumer said House GOP lawmakers can "pound their fists on the table" all they want, but it's "not going to get a wall."

Trump's tweets and White House statements earlier in the day sparked confusion over what the president wanted. Trump "does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

In morning tweets, Trump argued that Democrats "know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security" but "are putting politics over Country." Pelosi and Schumer have called the wall proposal inhumane and ineffective. They debated the barrier with Trump last week in a televised fracas.

The president threatened not to "sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security."

Trump tweet

But Trump appeared to contradict himself in a separate tweet. He suggested the U.S. did not need the wall for effective border security. The president said U.S. border patrol agencies have done a "great job."

"Border is tight. Fake News silent!" Trump wrote.

Trump tweet