TRUMP & PELOSI, SHOUTING Match Over WALL
President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer clashed Tuesday over funding for the border wall, an explosive Oval Office encounter that ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get what he wants.
The stunning public spat, during which Schumer accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum,” ended with no resolution and appeared to increase the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week.
The three leaders pointed fingers, raised their voices and interrupted each other repeatedly as they fought over policy and politics.
Schumer lectured Trump that “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”
Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”
Pelosi answered: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”
It was the first encounter among the three leaders in more than a year, and if it offered a taste of politics in Washington next year when Democrats control the House, the Capitol is in for a rough ride.
Pelosi repeatedly asked the president to take the encounter off-camera but it continued for nearly 20 rancorous minutes before Trump ejected the media.
“We came in here in good faith and we are entering into this kind of a discussion in the public view,” she said during the meeting’s public portion.
Pelosi and Schumer both implored Trump not to shutdown the government. Trump initially said he didn’t want a shutdown either but in the end announced that he did.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said, insisting the public doesn’t want criminals and others coming into the country. “I’m going to shut it down for border securty.”
He topped it off by promising he would simply use the military to build the wall: “If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall.”
This isn’t the first time that the White House has floated this idea. Trump has previously said in April, “We’re going to have our wall, and we’re going to get it very strongly. The military’s going to be building some of it.” That statement was backed up by a request from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense to use $450 million to fund the wall in September.
But, having the military build a border wall is actually a much more complex process than Trump seems to think. Armed forces are not little army men that the White House can move at will — nor should they be.
For the military to take the lead on border security, authority would need to shift from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense. While that would allow the funding for the wall to come from the deeper DOD budget, doing so would likely require congressional approval.
Even if Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wanted to used Pentagon funds for the wall, he would need to seek approval from Congress for a reprogramming request that would come at the expense of other military projects such as renovations at bases. The other option would be to try to include it as an item in defense appropriations, although that too would require approval from Congress.
Short of congressional approval, the White House could declare part of the proposed wall vital to national security, which would allow spending of up to $50 million a year. The other option would be for Trump to declare a national emergency, which would circumvent Congress but still pull money from the existing military construction budget — an unpopular move as it would take funds from districts that host military bases.
Although it’s true that DOD and the military have been involved in border security before — including the Army Corps of Engineers building border barriers — that has been in a supporting, rather than leading, role. Shifting the power of the military to take on what has typically been the role of law enforcement would be a fundamental change in how domestic issues are addressed.
“Our position is the president’s position,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters at a news conference. “We share the president’s goal. … We need to secure the border.”
Funding for the Homeland Security Department and a number of other agencies dries up Dec. 21 unless Congress and Trump act first.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday urged Democrats to accommodate Trump’s wall demands, warning lawmakers either needed to cooperate or “prepare for a very, very long month.”
“For the nation’s sake, I hope that my Democratic friends are prepared to have a serious discussion and reach an accommodation with the president on funding for border security,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.
There were two brief government shutdowns earlier this year, one of them provoked by Senate Democrats over immigration.
If there is no agreement by the end of next week, funding will run out for the Homeland Security Department and other agencies including the Justice, Interior and Agriculture departments. Those agencies, making up about 25 percent of the federal government, are operating on a short-term spending bill Congress passed last week to move the shutdown deadline. The rest of the federal government, including the Pentagon, has already been funded through the 2019 budget year.
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