Washington : President Donald Trump's demand for border wall funds hurled the federal government closer to a shutdown as House Republicans approved a package with his USD 5.7 billion request that is almost certain to be rejected by the Senate.
The White House said Trump will not travel to Florida on Friday for the Christmas holiday if the government is shutting down. More than 800,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday.
The shutdown crisis could be one of the final acts of the House GOP majority before relinquishing control to Democrats in January. Congress had been on track to fund the government but lurched Thursday when Trump, after a rare lashing from conservative supporters, declared he would not sign a bill without the funding. Conservatives want to keep fighting. They warn that "caving" on Trump's repeated wall promises could hurt his 2020 re-election chances, and other Republicans' as well.
The House voted largely along party lines, 217-185, after GOP leaders framed the vote as a slap-back to Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become House speaker on Jan. 3 and who had warned Trump in a televised Oval Office meeting last week that he wouldn't have the votes for the wall.
"Now we find compromise," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. "We have time right now to get it done." The government funding package, which includes nearly USD 8 billion in disaster aid for coastal hurricanes and California wildfires, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are grim amid strong opposition from Democrats. Sixty votes are needed to approve the bill there.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned senators they may need to return to Washington for a noontime vote Friday.
Many senators already left town for the holidays. The Senate approved a bipartisan bill late Wednesday to keep the government temporarily funded, with border security money at current levels, USD 1.3 billion, and no money for the wall. The House had been expected to vote on it Thursday.
The most likely possibility Friday is that the Senate strips the border wall out of the bill but keeps the disaster funds and sends it back to the House. House lawmakers said they were being told to stay in town for more possible votes.
With Pelosi's backing, the Senate-passed bill likely has enough support for House approval with votes mostly from Democratic lawmakers, who are still the minority, and some Republicans.
Others were not so sure. "I don't see how we avoid a shutdown," said retiring Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he was not convinced after a White House meeting with GOP leaders that Trump would sign the Senate bill.
"I looked him in the eyes today, and he was serious about not folding without a fight," Meadows said.