Mulvaney: If you want that spending bill, you'd better remember to pay for the wall

Is this posturing, or is Mick Mulvaney sending a signal that Trump is ready for a government shutdown? Congress is going to have a hot minute or so to pass the omnibus spending bill when they get back in town and the President’s budget boss has decided to toss some gasoline on the bonfire by insisting that funding for the first phase of construction of the wall be included. (Associate Press)

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says that Democratic negotiators on a massive spending bill need to agree to fund top priorities of President Donald Trump such as a down payment on a border wall and hiring of additional immigration agents.

Mulvaney told The Associated Press in an interview that “elections have consequences” and that “we want wall funding” as part of the catchall spending bill, which lawmakers hope to unveil next week…

The $1 trillion-plus legislation is leftover business from last year’s election-season gridlock and would cover the operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Veterans Affairs.

You’ll notice that you don’t hear anyone talking about Mexico paying for the wall anymore. At this point the bill is being handed to Congress and it’s unlikely to be an issue that Trump is going to back down on. The reality is that Mexico could, in theory at least, still pay for it but it’s going to take time to collect that money through other avenues, most of which will require the cooperation of Congress as well. For now we need to find the money out of the discretionary spending pool.

Under normal circumstances there wouldn’t be a single Democratic vote coming for this idea, but the White House may be planning some sweeteners to bring a few of them around. Of course, the big ticket items that the Democrats want include things like funding various provisions of Obamacare. Even if that’s enough to get Nancy Pelosi’s crew to go along with some wall funding it will probably drive away enough Republican votes that the measure will fail anyway. (And that’s assuming you can get Paul Ryan to even consider including it in the first place.)

All of this brings us back to one of many scenarios for a looming shutdown and the inevitable question of who gets blamed for it. The media will try to pin it on the GOP despite the glaring hypocrisy of doing so after blaming the minority party for other shutdowns in the past. Reasonable people will see through that and the GOP can sell the argument that it’s the Democrats’ fault if we’re sticking to the old way of doing business. But Trump may be opening the door to shoulder all the blame for a shutdown now. If (and it’s a big “if”) the two parties can actually hammer out some sort of spending bill that would pass but Trump poisons the deal by promising to kill the measure over wall funding, suddenly everyone can blame him. And trust me, there will be more than a few Republicans who will volunteer to do the Sunday show circuit and back up the Democrats in laying it all on Trump’s doorstep.

But if the President plays his cards correctly, this could turn out to be a winner after all. The fact is that we already spend millions upon millions of dollars on the existing border fence for maintenance, repairs and replacement of sections where needed. He can publicly ask the Democrats if they are now going to insist that zero money be budgeted for physical border security. If so, they’re going to lose in the court of public opinion. The only alternative is to make it obvious that they are only opposing this because it’s Trump’s idea, casting them as the spoiled brats stamping their feet and holding their breath in frustration.

Either way, we’re in for a drama filled April. But after the election cycle we just survived, are you really surprised?

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David Strom 1:31 PM on October 04, 2022