Looming above Washington as Congress and the White House attempt to avert a funding shutdown in only five days’ time, Donald Trump’s central campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border threatens to bring the US government to a halt this week in a national display of dysfunction.
On Sunday, even White House officials expressed uncertainty about whether the president would sign a funding bill that did not include money for a wall, which Trump has promised since the first day of his presidential campaign.
“We don’t know yet,” said the White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, on Fox News Sunday. “We are asking for our priorities.”
The president himself waded into the negotiations on Sunday, holding out two sticks and no carrot. “ObamaCare is in serious trouble,” he tweeted. “The Dems need big money to keep it going – otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”
“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” he continued, suggesting he would accuse Democrats of being soft on international crime.
But Trump also retreated from a related pledge to the American people: that he would “make Mexico pay” for the wall, which is estimated to cost billions.
“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” the president tweeted, without offering a plan or timeline.
Without a deal, funding for the government will run out at midnight on 28 April, Trump’s 100th day in office. The secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday he suspected the president would push for the wall.
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