Trump asks agency leaders to find money for border wall
- By Adam Mazmanian
- Dec 18, 2018
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said at her afternoon briefing Dec. 18 that the president had tasked agency heads with finding money that can be reprogrammed for the wall as part of a possible plan to pass appropriations bills and avoid a partial government shutdown.
Sanders said that President Donald Trump had "asked every agency to look and see if they have money that can be used" on the border wall project. She also indicated in response to reporter questions that a legislative directive on reprogramming funds was not a condition of any deal. Rather, agencies were looking at "specific pots of money" that could be legally directed to the wall.
The statement came as the White House is facing pressure to come up with a plan to avoid a partial government shutdown on Dec. 21, when the continuing resolution funding multiple cabinet-level agencies expires.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) derided the reprogramming measure as a "billion dollar slush fund." Pelosi said that the administration needs "congressional blessing" for reprogramming they have offered and the Democrats do not support it.
"I don't know what the path might be out but it might be a [continuing resolution]. A shorter term CR," Pelosi said at a media briefing Dec. 18.
Speaking on Fox News earlier the same day, Sanders suggested a compromise deal was possible in which Trump would back off his demand that $5 billion be appropriated for a planned border wall with Mexico, provided that there was some measure to reprogram other funds to border security.
"We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion that we'll work with Congress if they make sure that we get a bill passed," Sanders said, alluding to a legislative deal that "provides roughly $26 billion in border security including $1.6 billion for the wall."
In her afternoon briefing, Sanders told reporters the administration was looking to the Senate for action, and she said it was "disappointed in the fact that they have yet to vote on something and pass something."
Senate Democrats have backed a Department of Homeland Security appropriation bill that includes $1.6 billion in border fencing improvement that could be construed as wall funding. On the House side, many Democrats have objected to that allocation, preferring the current appropriation of $1.3 billion for border infrastructure, which includes barriers as well as sensors and other technology.
Some Senate Republicans, including members of the leadership, have complained publicly about the lack of direction from the White House on what kind of deal Trump would sign.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) the minority leader, said there were still no signs of a deal in remarks on the Senate floor on the morning of Dec. 18.
"They say they want to avoid a shutdown, [but] Republicans in the House and Senate have no plan," Schumer said. "Yesterday, Senate Republicans were telling reporters that they had no idea what the White House’s plan was, or if it even had one."
Schumer outlined two options that Democrats in the House and Senate would back: a continuing resolution covering all seven outstanding appropriations bills, or a measure to pass six appropriations bills agreed upon by House and Senate appropriators and a continuing resolution for DHS to run through fiscal year 2019.
"The only proposal that cannot pass is the president's demand for an unnecessary, ineffective, exorbitantly expensive border wall," Schumer said. "So if President Trump throws a temper tantrum and clings to his position on the wall, he will not get a wall, but he will cause a Trump shutdown over Christmas."
A proposed pay raise for civilian federal employees is caught up in the crossfire of shutdown politics. In a Dec. 18 letter to lawmakers, Anthony Reardon, head of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the proposed 1.9 percent pay raise should pass regardless of how the government is funded.
"While we prefer that full-year funding bills are enacted for the remaining agencies currently operating under the [continuing resolution], should another short- or longterm CR be enacted, we ask that the Senate-passed pay increase of 1.9 percent for federal employees be included," Reardon wrote.