Trump’s budget chief says money for border wall a must

FILE - In this March 16, 2017, file photo, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney speaks at the White House, in Washington. Mulvaney says that Democratic negotiators on a massive spending bill need to agree to funding 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 on April 20, that “elections have consequences” and that “we want wall funding” as part of the catchall spending bill, which lawmakers hope to unveil next week. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, file)
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press, File
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney spoke at a news conference last month.

WASHINGTON — Money for the wall President Trump wants to build along the US border with Mexico should be part of the massive spending bill Congress is preparing, the White House budget director says.

Additional funding also should be included to hire more immigration agents, Mick Mulvaney said in an interview in which he laid out the top priorities of the president.

Lawmakers hope to unveil the spending bill next week. Democratic negotiators are likely to resist providing the down payment that Mulvaney says Trump wants for construction of the wall, but the former GOP representative from South Carolina said ‘‘elections have consequences.’’


Mulvaney also said the administration is open, though undecided, about a key Democratic demand that the measure pay for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under the Affordable Care Act.

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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.

Talks on the measure have hit a rough patch as a deadline to avert a government shutdown looms late next week. Trump’s presidency is approaching the symbolic 100-day mark, but his GOP allies in Congress have been tempering expectations that the president would emerge as a big winner in the budget talks.

Democratic votes are likely to be needed to pass whatever bill emerges from the talks, and Senate Democrats could bottle it up entirely if they object to provisions that they deem to be ‘‘poison pills’’ — such as the money for the wall.

Trump campaigned for president on the promise of building the wall and sticking Mexico with the tab.


GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are eager to avert a shutdown, and the slow pace may make it necessary to enact another temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown next weekend. Mulvaney’s hard line could foreshadow a protracted impasse and increases the chances of a government shutdown.

‘‘A shutdown is never a desired end and neither is it a strategy,’’ Mulvaney said.

Democrats are confident that Republicans, who control both House and Senate, would bear the blame for any shutdown, even though Democrats wield power in the talks.

‘‘We have the leverage and they have the exposure,’’ House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, told fellow Democrats on a Thursday conference call, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Mulvaney said the White House delivered an offer to negotiators Wednesday night, with funding for the border wall a top demand.


Other items on the White House priority list, Mulvaney said, are a $30 billion request for a cash infusion for the military and a controversial provision to give the administration greater latitude to deny certain federal grants to ‘‘sanctuary cities’’ that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.

In spite of Trump’s promise, the cost of a border wall, expected to exceed $20 billion, would probably be borne by taxpayers. And some Republicans are opposed to the wall as well, preferring to spend more on technologies such as sensors and drone aircraft to beef up border security.

Democrats have taken a hard line against any money for the border wall and insist that the measure include federal health care payments to insurance companies.

At issue are cost-sharing payments that are a key subsidy under President Barack Obama’s health care law to help low-income people enrolled through the law’s insurance marketplaces with their out-of-pocket expenses. Trump has threatened to withhold the payments as a means to force Democrats to negotiate on health care legislation.

Mulvaney said the White House isn’t enthusiastic about Democratic demands on the payments but is open to them as part of a wider agreement.

‘‘Everything had been moving smoothly until the administration moved in with a heavy hand,’’ said Matt House, a spokesman for Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.