No signs of compromise as US shutdown looms

The prospect of a shortened congressional break or a serious fight with Republicans about Trump’s signing of short-term funding bills has been raised as senators return to Washington DC following a winter break.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the congressional budget committees said on Friday they hope to use a short extension of federal funding to consider what to do with the more than $200bn (£173bn) that the US president has pledged as a “down payment” on the wall that he has promised will be built along the US-Mexico border.

This weekend, an early morning Twitter post from Donald Trump cited Democratic opposition to funding a border wall and pledged to “rebuild the military”. Trump later posted a news release on the wall, without explaining his statement.

Reports that about $3bn of that amount may go toward improving ports and roads are likely to irritate Republicans, who have begun to question Trump’s priorities and his repeated tweets about the military.

Trump will find this wall-building season challenging: it begins at the same time the troops are out of Afghanistan | Dana Milbank Read more

Pentagon budgets lack any money for new construction, although Congress is expected to pass more than $68bn worth of base budget increases through the end of the fiscal year on 30 September.

If spending bills continue to slow down in Congress, or are vetoed by the president, the chance for another shutdown will be greater. That means time is of the essence to resolve the government funding fight before the rest of the year begins.

At the same time, since Republicans control both chambers of Congress, Trump must also make sure that he can gain any congressional concession he wants.

“We have to give the president some cover,” said John Thune, the Senate majority whip. “This isn’t just about Democrats, it’s about Republicans and so this is where we have to find that balance to make sure that the president gets some, particularly the wall money, and that the president gets the defense money that he’s looking for.

“I think that’s got to be the focus,” Thune added. “So there are some things we are going to have to do to make sure that President Trump gets what he thinks he deserves as far as the defense money.”

In December, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, led a rebellion among her Democratic colleagues that resulted in a ban on most immigration enforcement officers from doing “detainee” work, such as interrogating suspected immigrants. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has not agreed to that limit.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said the barriers Trump wants along the border are unbuildable, demanding a return to Democratic priorities, such as a modernised guest worker program, as the only solution.

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