US Congress passes short-term spending Bill

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER.
SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER.

Move pushes back deadline to resolve stand-off over funding of US-Mexico wall

WASHINGTON • The US Congress sent President Donald Trump a short-term spending Bill to move back the deadline for a partial government shutdown, setting up a high-stakes fight over Mr Trump's US-Mexico border wall just before Christmas.

The legislation sets a new deadline of Dec 21 for Mr Trump and Democrats to resolve their stand-off over funding for the wall, which is holding up action on spending Bills to fund the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies.

If the dispute is not resolved, funding for those agencies will expire, causing them to begin to shut down and furlough workers in the middle of the holiday season.

"We don't want to see the government shut down over Christmas, even though President Trump seems to brag that he wants one," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday on the Senate floor. But, Mr Schumer said, "The wall request is a non-starter."

Without the short-term Bill, the spending deadline would have been midnight yesterday. But lawmakers last weekend agreed to a two-week extension as Congress participated in memorial events for former President George H. W. Bush.

The House and the Senate passed the legislation by voice vote on Thursday. Mr Trump is expected to sign the measure.

But the Bill does nothing to resolve the central dispute looming over the final days of the 115th Congress: Mr Trump's demand for US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) to fund his long-promised wall along the border with Mexico.

RESOLUTION NEEDED

We don't want to see the government shut down over Christmas, even though President Trump seems to brag that he wants one. The wall request is a non-starter.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, on funding for agencies expiring if the dispute is not resolved.

In their waning days in control of the House, Republicans know it is their last shot to get Mr Trump the money for the wall that was the signature promise of his presidential campaign.

Mr Trump long claimed Mexico would pay for the wall, but he is now asking that it be funded by US taxpayers.

Mr Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are set to meet with Mr Trump on Tuesday. But the party leaders have repeatedly rejected Mr Trump's US$5 billion demand, especially as Democrats prepare to take over the House in January.

Mr Schumer and Mrs Pelosi on Thursday proposed extending funding at current levels for the Homeland Security Department to the end of the budget year - which would allocate some US$1.3 billion for border security and fencing for next year.

Mr Schumer said Mr Trump's other option would be to accept a bipartisan Bill negotiated in the Senate earlier this year providing US$1.6 billion for border security and fencing, a deal that has been on the table for months.

"The one and only way we approach a shutdown is if President Trump refuses both of our proposals and demands US$5 billion or more for a border wall," Mr Schumer said.

There were two brief partial government shutdowns earlier this year, one of which was resolved in a matter of hours.

Mr Trump is showing no signs of backing off his demand for wall money. Instead, in a tweet earlier this week, he returned to an earlier demand of US$25 billion for the wall.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2018, with the headline 'US Congress passes short-term spending Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe