WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed a short-term spending bill that would set up a government shutdown fight over President Donald Trump’s border wall just ahead of Christmas.
The legislation sets a new deadline of Dec. 21 when funding for the Homeland Security Department and a handful of other federal agencies will dry up without action by Congress and Trump.
The current deadline is this Friday, Dec. 7, at midnight, but lawmakers agreed to extend it in light of former President George H.W. Bush’s death and memorial events.
The House passed the bill by voice vote Thursday, and the Senate is expected to pass the measure later Thursday afternoon. Trump is expected to sign the measure.
The legislation does nothing to resolve the central dispute looming over the final days of the 115th Congress: Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund his long-promised wall along the border with Mexico.
In their waning days in control of the House, Republicans know it’s their last shot to get Trump the money he wants for the wall that remains an unfulfilled promise of his presidential campaign. Trump during the campaign constantly promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but he is now asking it be paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Democrats are determined not to give in to Trump’s demands. On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed extending funding at current levels for the Homeland Security Department through the end of the budget year – which would allocate some $1.3 billion for border security and fencing for 2019.
Schumer said Trump’s other option would be to accept a bipartisan bill negotiated in the Senate earlier this year providing $1.6 billion for border security and fencing.
“We don’t want to see the government shut down over Christmas, even though President Trump seems to brag that he wants one,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The one and only way we approach a shutdown is if President Trump refuses both of our proposals and demands $5 billion or more for a border wall. The wall request is a non-starter.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he’d have to think about the Democrats’ proposal. Shelby added that the last time he talked to Trump, the president was “steadfast” on getting $5 billion for the wall.
Schumer and Pelosi will meet with Trump on Tuesday.
A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.