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House passes spending bill with $5.7B for border wall

House Speaker Paul Ryan walks to the chamber

House Speaker Paul Ryan walks to the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday approved a short-term spending bill with $5.7 billion added to it for a border wall after President Donald Trump said he would not sign a stop-gap measure to keep the government open without “border security” funding.

The measure passed 217 to 185 along party lines and now goes back to the Senate, where it faces likely defeat with unified Democratic opposition, and increases the possibility of a partial shutdown.

After Trump’s veto threat, House Republican leaders had tacked on $5.7 billion for a wall and $8.7 billion for disaster aid to a measure passed in a bipartisan Senate voice vote late Wednesday that would continue spending for unfunded federal agencies until Feb. 8.

Trump later tweeted his thanks to House Republicans and tweaked the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for predicting they didn't have the votes to pass border security. 

"So proud of you all," Trump tweeted to his supporters in the House. "Now on to the Senate."

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi said the revised measure would not pass in the Senate because Democrats would not support it, depriving it of the 60 votes it needs to be approved.

“President Trump is throwing a temper tantrum and creating the Trump shutdown of the government,” Schumer said as they put the blame on the president.

Trump on Thursday changed his mind on supporting the Senate bill — which he had indicated he would do — amid fierce criticism by conservative lawmakers and commentators that he was giving up his best chance for the funds.

“Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said at a farm bill signing ceremony ahead of a midnight Friday deadline, when about a quarter of the government would run out of money to pay for services and wages of about 800,000 employees.

Trump came to his decision not to sign the bill passed by the Senate in a midday closed-door White House meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and conservative congressmen urging him to fight.

Afterward, Ryan told reporters, “The president informed us that he will not sign the bill that came over from the Senate last night. So we’re going to go back to work on adding border security to this, also keeping the government open.”

Thursday morning, Pelosi said, “The Republicans are in a state of disarray.” She called paying for a wall a “nonstarter.”

Schumer said he sees no “end game” for Republicans other than agreeing to the short-term spending bill passed by the Senate.

“A Trump shutdown will not convince a single Democrat to support bilking the American taxpayer for an ineffective, unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive wall that Mexico would pay for,” Schumer said.

If Congress fails to pass a stop-gap spending measure, a partial shutdown would occur over Christmas, Schumer said. Then on Jan. 3, he said, a Democratic majority in the House would pass a clean spending bill and send it to the Senate, where lawmakers would vote for it.

The Republican-controlled Congress had been poised to approve the measure passed by the Senate, but conservative House Republicans questioned their party’s congressional leaders’ decision to go ahead with it, saying that they have more leverage now to get the $5 billion wall funding than they would have in February, when Democrats will control the House.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, urged Trump during the White Housemeeting to fight for the wall. Meadows said Wednesday his constituents were calling his office, complaining about the failure to fund the wall.

“This is a fumble and we need to make sure that the president stays firm, and a lot of people are nervous this morning about whether the president will cave or not,” Meadows said Thursday morning on “Fox and Friends.”

But not all Republicans joined Meadows and his bloc of as many as 20 members.

Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) called the attempt to pass border funding “governmental malpractice and political insanity.” King said it is “irresponsible” to try to pass a bill that lawmakers know won’t pass in the Senate, and it shows that Republicans cannot govern.

“It’s a 21st century version of the Charge of the Light Brigade,” King said.

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