Trump to ask Congress to help fund $21bn Mexico wall

US government facing shutdown as funding for federal agencies due to run out on Friday

US president Donald  Trump with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley  and assistant to the president for national security affairs Lieut Gen HR McMaster during a  lunch at the White House with ambassadors from the UN. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/PA

US president Donald Trump with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and assistant to the president for national security affairs Lieut Gen HR McMaster during a lunch at the White House with ambassadors from the UN. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/PA

 

Controversy over US president Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico is set to intensify this week as the Trump administration seeks to convince Congress to sanction funds to build the wall ahead of a possible government shutdown this weekend.

As US Congress returns to Washington this week after a two-week recess, funding for federal agencies will run out on midnight on Friday if an agreement on budgetary spending is not reached.

One of the central issues of contention is funding for Mr Trump’s controversial wall on America’s southern border. While Mr Trump had previously said that Mexico will pay for the wall, he has more recently said that the US federal government will contribute part of the money upfront before it is reimbursed in some way by Mexico.

Department of Homeland Security estimates have put the cost of the wall at more than $21 billion.

‘Important tool’

While Mr Trump’s press spokesman Sean Spicer refused to confirm if Mr Trump would back a deal which did not include specific funding commitments for the wall, the president tweeted on Monday: “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!”

This is a permanent step that will last beyond his presidency

Mr Spicer reiterated Mr Trump’s continued support for the controversial wall on Monday.

“This is a permanent step that will last beyond his presidency,” he said. “We feel very confident where we’re headed.”

Negotiations were continuing on Monday between the House and Senate leadership and the Trump administration, represented primarily by the director of management and budget, Mick Mulvaney, in a bid to secure a deal before the weekend.

Healthcare package

While Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Mr Trump was unable to muster enough Republican votes for his healthcare package last month.

One possibility is that Congress could pass a week-long “stop-gap” Bill that would allow it to negotiate a more permanent agreement that would fund the federal government through to October.

The White House is also seeking to revive a stalled Republican plan for a healthcare Bill which would repeal and replace Obamacare, with Republicans said to be offering Democrats the possibility of funding some aspects of Obamacare in exchange for some funding commitments on the wall.

With Mr Trump due to mark his 100th day in office next Saturday, the White House is keen to push through a range of measures this week, including an announcement on tax reform which is scheduled for Wednesday.

Tensions

Politicians of both parties are keen to avoid the government shutdown which effectively closed government agencies for 17 days in 2013 and became a symbol of the tensions between the Obama administration and Congress.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump hosted about a dozen ambassadors from the United Nations at the White House on Monday for lunch, including representatives of Russia and China. Mr Trump, who has previously been a critic of the multilateral institution, said ahead of the meeting. “We must also take a close look at the UN budget. Costs have absolutely gone out of control.”