GOP floats new border funding plan

Senate Republicans are considering a fresh proposal to break a standoff over government funding that would provide $5 billion over the next two years for President Donald Trump’s border wall, according to Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Shelby said the plan has not been agreed to by Democrats — whose support is needed for it to pass in the Senate — or Trump. But he said he is hopeful the idea might thread the needle between the competing interests and allow Congress to pass year-end spending bills and avoid a government shutdown next month.

Right now, Trump is insisting on $5 billion border wall construction in fiscal year 2019. Democrats have agreed to just $1.6 billion and have vowed to go no higher.

Under this GOP proposal, $900 million in new money would be added to the $1.6 billion already in the bill for a total of $2.5 billion next year. As part of the agreement, an additional $2.5 billion in advance appropriations would be locked in for fiscal year 2020, making a total of $5 billion over the two-year period.

“I’m trying to get it to $5 billion,” said Shelby, who has been working for months to resolve the politically-complex issue of wall funding. “That’s my goal.”

Asked why he thinks Democrats, who oppose the wall and generally don’t support Trump, would sign on to this idea without getting anything in return, Shelby didn’t have a firm answer.

“You’ll have to ask them,” Shelby said. “We’re hoping they would if they want the government funded.”

In a floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate Democrats and Republicans have been in “good faith negotiations” but that Trump’s push to get $5 billion was preventing an agreement.

He urged Trump to either accept the $1.6 billion in the existing bill or agree to one-year continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security to keep it funded at existing levels and prevent it from shutting down. Schumer said he was confident a such a bill would get the 60 or more votes needed to pass.

Schumer complained the administration hasn’t even spent all the money it was appropriated last year for border security construction and urged the President not to carry out his threat to shut down the government over the issue, especially as the holiday season approaches.

“It would be a shame if the country suffered because of Trump temper tantrum,” Schumer said. “It’s up to him.”

Trump said earlier Thursday that there could be a possible government shutdown if Congress does not approve money for a border wall.

“A possible shutdown if we don’t get the wall money, a very possible — we’re in negotiations. If we don’t get border security, possible shutdown,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing on Marine One for a trip to South America.