Democrats threaten government shutdown over Trump’s border wall

Chuck Schumer with Nancy Pelosi

Photo via Lorie Shaull/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Will this backfire?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) threatened Republican senators with a government shutdown should they try to push through funding for the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall or to defund Planned Parenthood through amendments made to a must-pass spending bill.

“If they put these poison pill amendments in and try to shove them down the American people’s throat, of course they might be responsible for shutting the government down,” Schumer said on Tuesday.

The current government funding bill will end in April and the Senate will need to pass the replacement bill before then to prevent the federal government from grinding to a halt. In threatening to block the replacement bill, Democrats could force the shutdown. Even though Republicans control the Senate with 52 seats, they still need eight Democrats to help push the bill over the line.

Schumer’s warning comes one day after a letter signed by senior Democratic senators was delivered to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Democrats expressed serious concern over the border wall issue in particular.

“First, many experts believe that such a border wall will not work. Second, there is real concern that the administration, put simply, has no plan to build the border wall. Finally, there are objections to the construction of a wall from Democratic and Republican members of Congress that represent border states,” the letter reads.

It continues: “Given these and other concerns, we believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, however, McConnell appeared to want to ease Democrat fears ahead of the funding bill debate, saying that they “will have the opportunity to ball up like they did last year.” He then retorted that he was “amused by the Democrats apparently warming up to the idea that threatening to shut down the government is a good idea.”

In 2013, Democrat senators harshly criticized conservative Republicans for causing a government shutdown to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Lasting just over two weeks, the shutdown affected thousands of staff and forced many important government programs to stop temporarily. Eventually, the Republican senators, under public and political pressure, ended it.

Despite threatening the action, however, Democrats insisted in Monday’s letter that they want to work with Republicans to bring the bill through.

“Rather than pursuing this partisan path,” Schumer said, “we hope both sides can work together to ensure the government remains funded going forward.”

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.