Trump administration delays fight over border wall funding

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Senior Trump administration officials involved in the talks about the spending bill are prepared to concede that in the main, the fight over funding for President Trump’s border wall will now be put off until the fiscal 2018 negotiations. Most of what the president wants, they say, has been achieved on border security, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports.

The White House is planning, as early as Tuesday, to pivot to a message of general satisfaction on border security, and they’ll suggest Democrats would be to blame if a shutdown were to take place because of their demands for concessions on Obamacare subsidies and other matters, according to Garrett.

The White House has been signaling since Friday, albeit opaquely, that funds in 2017 for border agents, detention facilities, technology and the like would be hard to turn down in light of shutdown pressures. This is now the strategy the White House is pursuing — to take the victory on these other issues, rather than to press the border wall funding now.

And this is fine with Democrats, CBS News’ Nancy Cordes reports. They say they’re more than comfortable with some additional funding for border security and surveillance — and will only balk at funding for Mr. Trump’s border wall or anything resembling a deportation force. So the president’s retreat on wall funding renders a shutdown extremely unlikely.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, welcomed the president’s change of heart on the wall funding.

“The president’s comments this evening are welcome news, given the bipartisan opposition to the wall,” she said in a statement Monday night.

It’s still possible that negotiators won’t be able to tie up all the loose ends by Friday, however, and they’re likely to have to pass a one-week extension to keep the government running, in order to complete work on the spending bill. But the sense on Capitol Hill right now is that this is going to get done without too much fanfare.

Defense spending
Other hurdles in the spending negotiations have been whether to fulfill the White House’s supplemental request for $30 billion more for the Defense Department. If it isn’t fully funded in the base portion of the budget, lawmakers could pour the remaining money into the overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund, which is used to finance U.S. military operations overseas. Critics of OCO have called it a “slush fund” or a “blank check” for wars. Mr. Trump had also threatened to deny payments to health insurers under Obamacare, and Democrats have insisted they must be included in the spending legislation. These payments help low-income people enrolled under Obamacare with out-of-pocket expenses.

Other domestic programs
The White House had also asked Congress to cut $18 billion from non-defense domestic programs in the spending measure. Lawmakers are expected to ignore this request, especially since appropriators are now seven months into the new fiscal year and have been working on their 2017 spending bills for nearly a year.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is to blame, Dyer said.

“Mulvaney has got to understand that if he wants a bill, he needs 60 votes in the Senate. He can’t get 60 votes by being a hard-ass,” he said. “To drop an $18 billion dime on these people seven months into the fiscal year, it’s fiscally irresponsible.”

Saturday not only happens to be the day the government could shut down, but it’s also Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office. After three bumpy months and few legislative accomplishments to point to, the president is looking for a win. The 16-day government shutdown provoked by Republicans in October 2013 might not have hurt them in the 2014 midterm elections, but another shutdown could be harmful for their 2018 prospects.

“I think it will continue to disappoint the Republican base, and I think it’s something they really want to avoid,” Bell said. “They need a victory real bad and keeping the government open…that, I think, will be portrayed as a victory.”

And while shifting blame may have worked better in the past, this time, Republicans are more vulnerable.

“The Republicans have quite properly made a great deal of the fact that they control all the levers of power — they control the executive and legislative branch,” Dyer said, adding that it’s “not credible” to blame the shutdown on the minority.

He added that funding the government for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, will be worse with the need for a new budget deal to lift spending caps and the need to lift the debt ceiling on the agenda.

“This is painless and easy….[Fiscal 2018] is not going to be painless and easy,” he said.

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