Trump pulls back from govt shutdown threat over wall funds

WASHINGTON • The White House has signalled to congressional Republicans that it will not shut down the government next month if money is not appropriated to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, potentially clearing a path for lawmakers to reach a short-term budget deal.

Congress has appropriated money to fund government operations only through the end of this month, and President Donald Trump has threatened to shut down the government if lawmakers do not include US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) in new funding so that 119km of wall and secondary fencing can be added to the border.

"Build that wall," Mr Trump said at an Aug 22 rally in Phoenix. "Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

But two days later, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the US$1.6 billion would not need to be in a "continuing resolution" that was meant to fund government operations from next month until sometime in early December, a senior GOP congressional aide said.

White House officials have signalled to lawmakers, however, that the wall's eventual construction remains a top priority for Mr Trump. He wants this funding to be included in the December budget Bill, GOP congressional aides said.

Mr Trump could still follow through on a threat to shut down the government in December, but this marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget Bill.

The first time came in May, when lawmakers voted to authorise government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall.

That law, however, did allow the United States government to replace the existing border wall with a new barrier where necessary.

Mr Trump has been threatening to shut down the government for months. In May, he said in a tweet that the government needed a "good shutdown" to break the gridlock in Congress.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Trump pulls back from govt shutdown threat over wall funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe