WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funds hurled the federal government closer to a shutdown as House Republicans approved a package Thursday with his $5.7 billion request that is almost certain to be rejected by the Senate.
The House of Representatives voted largely along party lines, 217-185, after GOP leaders framed the vote as a slap-back to Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become House speaker on Jan. 3 and who had warned President Trump in a televised Oval Office meeting last week that he wouldn’t have the votes for the wall.
More than 800,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday. The White House said the president will not travel to Florida today for the Christmas holiday if the government is shutting down.
Among those who voted for the revised bill that contains the wall funding was Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) who represents Chautauqua County in the House.
In a statement, Reed said his vote wasn’t about politics but instead about keeping people safe.
“This isn’t about politics. This about doing the right thing and securing our southern border so mothers can sleep in peace without fear of dangerous MS-13 gang members pouring into our country,” Reed said.
Despite Congressman Reed’s and other Republican’s concerns, available evidence on MS-13 suggests those fears are largely unfounded.
In March of this year, officials at every level of law enforcement told the New York Times that President Trump’s campaign against MS-13 was out of proportion with the threat it poses. The gang doesn’t appear to have the infrastructure or funding of a major international crime syndicate.
There’s also no evidence that the gang is growing as rapidly as the president suggests—or growing at all. By the Justice Department’s own count, there are roughly 10,000 members of MS-13 living in the United States today, roughly the same number as there were a decade ago.”
As part of his statement, Reed also said his vote was to keep government open, even though Democrats in the Senate have made it clear they would not support a bill that included money for a wall.
“I am proud to vote to keep our government open for the American people,” Reed said.
Congress had been on track to fund the government without the wall money but lurched Thursday when President Trump declared he would not sign a bill without that piece of funding. Conservatives wanted the president to keep fighting. They warn that “caving” on the president’s repeated wall promises could hurt his 2020 re-election chances, and other Republicans’ as well.
The government funding package, which includes nearly $8 billion in disaster aid for coastal hurricanes and California wildfires, now goes back to the Senate, where its prospects are grim amid strong opposition from Democrats. Sixty votes are needed to approve the bill there and Democratic leaders have made clear they will not budge on their opposition to the border wall that candidate Donald Trump campaigned on, saying Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused.