Wall fight looms again as lawmakers prep for budget talks

Written by on May 19, 2019

The House, Senate, and White House are poised to begin talks next week on a budget deal and raising the debt ceiling, but an accord on 2020 spending could be hobbled once again by a fight over border wall funding.

“You ask me where this thing is going to fall apart again, it’s over the wall,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Both parties are eager to avoid a repeat of the fiscal 2019 budget debacle that came after President Trump refused to sign spending bills without wall funding. Democrats refused to accommodate Trump and a monthlong partial government shutdown ensued.

But neither party appears ready to talk about wall funding.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have agreed to join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to meet with top White House officials to talk about budget caps.

The group will sit down with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. They must come up with a compromise on lifting spending caps that would otherwise be imposed under the 2011 Budget Control Act. They’ll also discuss raising the debt ceiling.

Democrats and Republicans are seeking a two-year deal to lift the caps, which will allow them to jump-start the process of passing legislation to fund the 2020 fiscal year.

The talks won’t center on wall funding but could include a plan to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which must be lifted in the next few months.

McConnell, in a talk with President Trump last week, said he is willing to agree to Democratic demands to lift domestic spending caps, which would pave the way for an accord increasing military spending, too.

The Senate majority leader’s message to Trump signals a caps deal may be achievable.

But the next step, passing a 2020 spending bill, will likely hit a roadblock again over Trump’s desire for more wall funding.

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget for next year. It would make significant cuts to domestic spending, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Depart of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But it would increase spending for veterans, the military, and the Department of Homeland Security.

It also includes $8.6 billion to finish more sections of the border wall with Mexico.

While Trump may be willing to abandon spending cuts, he’s likely to insist on more wall funding, particularly in the wake of recent surges of illegal immigration along the southern border.

Senators are worried that nobody is addressing the imminent standoff over the wall, risking another last-minute government shutdown.

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“The lingering issue is the wall,” Graham said. “What’s the plan for the wall?”

Democratic leaders aren’t commenting on what amount of wall funding, if any, they will be willing to accept in the 2020 spending bills. A Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner that the first step involves agreeing on lifting the spending caps, which is what leaders will discuss with Mulvaney and Mnuchin next week.

But Graham wants to start talking about it now.

“I want to get this out on the table,” Graham said, “so we don’t have another train wreck.”

Source: Washington Examiner – Congress


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