As the weekend holiday fast approaches, so does a critical deadline for Congress to get a bill signed to keep the government operating while they continue to work towards securing funding for the fiscal year. With a Dec. 21 midnight deadline looming, all eyes turned to the president Thursday as he made a 180 in his support for a bill. So will Donald Trump veto the spending bill over the border wall?
Once again, the president is tacitly threatening a shutdown if funding for the wall is not part of the package. "I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security," Trump tweeted Thursday, Dec. 20. This was echoed in a formal statement by the White House, in which the administration clarified that the president's definition of "perfect Border Security" does in fact include a physical barrier at the southern border with Mexico. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for additional comment, but did not immediately hear back. Per the Associated Press, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan added on Thursday that the president, due to the border wall standoff, is not willing to sign a bill to keep the government funded.
"The president does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement Thursday per The New York Times. She added that Trump "is continuing to weigh his options."
The statement was a dramatic reversal from his position earlier this week, when the White House signaled on Dec. 18 that Trump was considering backing down from his demands for a border wall and might attempt to play ball with Democrats to avert a shutdown.
Congress has until midnight on Dec. 21 to reach an agreement before a shutdown would go into effect. In an attempt to postpone that deadline, the Senate on Wednesday passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), also called a stopgap measure, to temporarily fund the government for a short period until a formal solution is finalized. The legislative Band-Aid, often used in such negotiation processes to avert shutdowns, would keep the government in business through Feb. 8, 2019. But as with a formal spending bill, while a CR needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress, the president has the final say on approving it and can veto the legislation at will. So while Trump didn't explicitly say he was intending to shut down the government in his remarks Thursday, by definition, his refusal to sign the legislation would amount to a shutdown.
This is the second time in a month the legislature moved to pass such a resolution, following a Dec. 6 vote to fund the government through Dec. 21 to buy Congress time to come to an agreement. But as of writing, the new deadline looms with little prospect of success. Both Trump and the House have yet to sign off on the new CR, so unless the temporary measure or a formal spending bill goes through, the government will face a partial shutdown starting Saturday.
Trump has been vacillating on his position with respect to border wall funding for weeks now. In a heated Oval Office meeting with the top two Democrats in Congress on Dec. 11, Trump stood by his demand for the $5 billion line item, and said he'd take the blame if it resulted in a shutdown.
And just Thursday alone, Trump appeared to contradict himself on whether he views a physical wall as necessary to securing the border, as CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond notes.
Democrats have made concessions by agreeing to fund "border security" and have signaled support for the short-term funding bill, but have reiterated their position that they won't back a bill that includes funding for a wall, per CNBC.
So at the moment, it appears that Congress and the White House are at an impasse. If Ryan's comments that Trump doesn't intend to sign the bill are fulfilled, that leaves the country with little room to avoid a shutdown before the Christmas holiday. As of Dec. 20, Trump is slated to leave Washington for Mar-a-Lago on Friday, where he will spend the weekend at his Florida resort — so if a shutdown comes to pass, the president will be far away from the drama.