Trump Demands Border Wall Money, Plunging Shutdown Fight Back Into Chaos

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11 : President Donald J. Trump debates with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meet... WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11 : President Donald J. Trump debates with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of White House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 20, 2018 11:29 a.m.

President Trump is back to demanding funding for a border wall with Mexico in order to avoid a government shutdown, throwing Congress back into chaos and raising the possibility of a partial shutdown as of midnight Friday.

“The President is having a meeting with Republican House Members at noon today. At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement late Thursday morning.

That’s the latest grenade Trump has thrown into ongoing negotiations over funding the government, after Congress had moved towards embracing a continuing resolution that would have funded the government through Feb. 8, 2019, and punted the fight to the next Congress.

Retiring Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) neatly summed up the state of play for House Republicans shortly before Trump’s statement.

“If Trump tweets something then people will do it, then it’ll all be done,” he said with a chagrined smile, warning if Trump voiced opposition “then we’re not going to have a clean C.R. [continuing resolution] vote.”

On the White House’s handling of the situation: “How are they handling it? Are they handling anything right now, or are we all just twisting in the wind?”

After the Senate unanimously passed a continuing resolution late Wednesday night to fund the government through Feb. 8, it initially looked likely that the House would acquiesce to delaying the fight for two months. But conservative members balked at swallowing a bill they see as surrender, and Republicans of all stripes began desperately pleading with the White House for a sign on whether President Trump will actually sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

That wavering had Republicans scrambling, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) abruptly canceling his planned weekly press conference shortly before the statement dropped.

Trump had earlier backed off a bit from his demand for $5 billion for a border wall in any deal to keep funding the government. But after tweets hinting he was wavering from that position he’s once again reversed himself, throwing the entire process back into chaos.

“We’re having a conversation with members and the president about where we go, the interest we have in getting the wall funded,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told reporters shortly before Trump’s latest position was made public.

Democrats are adamant that they won’t accept border wall funding. A bill can’t pass the Senate without bipartisan support. If Trump won’t sign any bill without money for the wall, a shutdown is almost guaranteed.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) summed up the current GOP position  shortly before the White House’s latest statement became public.

“Republicans are in a state of disarray. We don’t know what’ll happen next,” she said. “We’re right in the middle of a sort of meltdown on the part of the Republicans.”

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