US President Donald Trump said the military would build his promised border wall “if Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our country”.
Trump tweeted yesterday that immigration and border patrol agents and the military have done a “fantastic” job securing the border with Mexico.
“But a Great Wall would be a far easier and less expensive solution,” he said.
Some government funding expires next Friday and the risk of shutdown looms if Trump and House can’t reach an agreement. Trump wants at least $5billion (R72bn) for the wall in the next funding package. Democrats are offering $1.3bn for fencing and other border security measures.
Congressional leaders are seeking to avert a partial government shutdown amid a sharp dispute over Trump’s border wall and a lengthy to-do list that includes a major farm bill and a formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Our country cannot afford a Trump shutdown,” the Democrats said, adding that Trump “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement”.
Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly said it’s up to Trump to cut a deal with Democrats, an acknowledgement of their own inability to produce spending bills with Republican votes alone.
Closed-door talks could also veer into Trump’s request for emergency funding for deadly wildfires in California and a Republican-sponsored bill to extend expiring tax breaks and delay some health-care taxes.
Before legislators adjourn for the year, they also may consider a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and a plan to overhaul the system for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill.
By far the biggest unresolved issue is the border wall.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have urged Trump to support a bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by legislators, along with a separate measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security.
Pelosi said she and many other Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective and expensive” and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, an idea Mexico has repeatedly rejected.
Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned.
Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology, Schumer said.
“We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government,” Schumer said.
But Senate appropriations chairperson Richard Shelby, Representative for Alabama, said he did not believe Trump or Democrats wanted to shut the government down. AP