WASHINGTON (AP) — With a budget deadline looming, President Donald Trump plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments while putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, even if that pressure risks a possible government shutdown.
Trump approaches the symbolic 100-day mark for his administration this coming week juggling a renewed health care push and his demands that a must-pass government funding bill should include money for the wall.
In a tweet Monday, Trump said his proposed border wall would be “a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!”
Over the weekend, he jabbed at Democrats, who vigorously oppose wall funding. “The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” the president tweeted Sunday.
He added: “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.”
The 100-day mark falls on Saturday, the same day government could shut down without a budget deal. Trump has announced a rally in Pennsylvania that day.
Despite Trump’s dismissal that the 100-day marker is “artificial,” the White House has packed his schedule. Trump will sign executive orders on energy and rural policies, meet with the president of Argentina and travel to Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event. Top aides will also fan out around the country to promote the administration.
Trump also plans to outline an ambitious tax cut plan on Wednesday, telling The Associated Press last week that it would include a “massive” tax break for both individuals and corporations.
Aides stressed on Sunday talk shows that funding for a border wall and a vote on an effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law were immediate priorities. They asserted that both still could be accomplished in the coming week.
“I don’t think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,” said budget director Mick Mulvaney on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump would like to revive a failed effort by House Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” He also hopes to use the $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.
So far, negotiations have proven difficult, with disputes over the wall and health law subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. House members received little information from leaders on a conference call this past Saturday.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’s confident the spending bill will include something “satisfactory” to reflect Trump’s desire to build a wall. The legislation would keep the government running through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal 2017 budget year.
“We expect the priorities of the president to be reflected,” Priebus said, citing ongoing talks with the House and the Senate. “It will be enough in the negotiation for us to move forward with either the construction or the planning, or enough for us to move forward through the end of September to get going on the border wall and border security.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California described a border wall as “immoral” and “expensive” when asked if there was any scenario in which Democrats would agree to money for a wall.
“Democrats do not support the wall,” she said, speaking also on NBC. “Republicans on the border states do not support the wall.”
Pelosi noted that when Trump promised to build a wall during the presidential campaign, he never indicated he would “pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall onto the taxpayer.” With Republicans now controlling Congress and the White House, she said, the burden to keep government open “is on Republicans.”
Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mexico would pay for the wall, which he says is necessary to stop the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally, as well as drug smugglers.
On Obama’s health law, Priebus said he’d like to have a vote on the GOP repeal-and-replace bill in the House this week. But he insisted it didn’t make too much difference to the White House whether the vote came “Friday or Saturday or Monday.”
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Priebus said.
Trump tweeted a separate warning at Democrats on Sunday, saying: “ObamaCare is in serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going — otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”
On Trump’s coming tax cut plan, Mulvaney said on Fox to expect “some specific governing principles, some guidance, also some indication on what the rates are going to be.” He added: “I don’t think anybody expects us to roll out bill language on Wednesday.”
The White House is eager to tout progress on the litany of agenda items Trump promised to fulfill in his first 100 days, despite setbacks including court bans on his proposed immigration limits and the high-profile failure in repealing and replacing “Obamacare.”
The president told the AP on Friday that he spent his first 100 days laying the “foundation” for progress later in his administration, including by building relationships with foreign leaders.