WASHINGTON - The White House said Monday it feels "very confident" that the U.S. government will not shut down later this week in a funding dispute, even as it echoed President Donald Trump's call for inclusion of money for construction of a wall along the Mexican border that opposition Democrats say they are against.
The current spending plan for U.S. government operations runs out at midnight Friday, leaving Trump and congressional negotiators just days to reach an accord on funding priorities through the end of September.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said the president has two priorities in the budget talks: an increase in defense spending, as well as more money for border security and the wall to thwart illegal immigration. Trump vowed during his run for the White House to build a 3,100-kilometer barrier along the U.S. southern border and make Mexico pay for it, something Mexican leaders say will not happen.
"In order to get the ball rolling on border security and the wall," Spicer said, Trump is " going to have to use the current appropriations process so that he would make sure that promise is kept. Initially we need to get the funding going."
Since Trump took office three months ago, border crossings have diminished, but Spicer said that the wall still "absolutely" needs to be built.
"Just because you have a couple good months, a year, you want to take prudent long-term steps. … It's a promise he made to the American people," the spokesman said. "This is a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency. Eight years from now [assuming Trump is re-elected in 2020], the next president will have that wall in place to make sure that [illegal immigration] doesn't continue."
Trump, in a Twitter comment, said the "the Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!"
The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017
Congress' top two Democrats said budget negotiators could reach an agreement on U.S. spending for the next five-plus months if Trump abandons his call for border wall funding.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Trump is risking a federal shutdown "by shoving this wall down Congress' and the American people's throats."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump's campaign promise to build the wall did not call for U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill.