House Passes Doomed Spending Bill With Border Wall Funding As Deadline Looms

With just hours to go, a partial government shutdown is becoming more and more likely.

With less than a day to go before the government runs out of spending authority for roughly one-third of its operations, the inevitability of a shutdown that lasts through the holidays is becoming more and more apparent. When the day started yesterday, of course, it seemed as though we were on course for an easy resolution of the looming government shutdown. The night before, the Senate passed with unanimous consent a bill that would keep the government funded through early February, but which did not provide any funding for the President’s budget bill. At the time the bill was passed, it’s clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill had an understanding with the White House that the President would sign this bill notwithstanding his earlier promise to shut the government down if he didn’t get at least $5 billion for his border wall.

With the Senate passage of that bill, the plan yesterday morning was to pass the Senate bill and send it to the President where he could sign it. After that, with the immediate crisis averted, everyone could go home for the holidays, and Washington could happily slip into a pre-holiday mode. Paul Ryan, who is spending his final days as both a Member of Congress and Speaker of the House, had even scheduled what was supposed to be his final press conference, which most people expected to be lighthearted. Things quickly went off the rails, though. House Republicans held a breakfast meeting to walk those Members of Congress who were still in town through the bill that had passed the Senate and what would be happening on the Hill to get it through the House. Fairly quickly though, it became apparent that the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus were having none of it and insisting on a bill that including funding for a wall. Outside Washington, meanwhile, the Trump whisperers in the conservative world such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the folks at Fox & Friends were busy pushing back and chiding the President for appearing to back down from his insistence on funding for a border wall. All of this resulted in a frantic phone call between Ryan and the President, and a meeting at the White House during which the President returned to his previous position that he would not sign a funding bill that doesn’t include funding for his wall.

With those marching instructions, the House Republican went back to Capitol Hill and rammed through a spending bill that, in addition to what is in the Senate Continuing Resolution, provides Trump the money he wanted for his wall and some additional funding for disaster relief, this measure though is most likely doomed in the Senate:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday torpedoed a spending deal and sent the government careening toward a Christmastime shutdown over his demand of $5 billion for a wall on the southwestern border, refusing to sign a stopgap measure to keep funds flowing past midnight Friday.

With Mr. Trump unwilling to admit defeat on his signature campaign promise despite a clear lack of votes to get it through Congress, House Republican leaders scrambled for a way out of the year-end morass. On a dizzying day in the Capitol, House Republicans pushed through legislation to add $5.7 billion for the wall to a measure to extend government funding into February, making a last stand in the final hours of their majority to back the president’s hard-line immigration promises.

The bill is almost certain to die in the Senate, where it would need bipartisan support. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told senators scattered around the country to return Friday for another vote. The House approved it on a nearly party-line vote of 217 to 185.

As uncertainty reigned, stock prices tumbled, economic worries rose, and to cap off the chaos, the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, resigned in protest of the president’s policies.

“It is a shame that this president, who is plunging the nation into chaos, is throwing another temper tantrum and going to hurt lots of innocent people,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said during an evening news conference in the Capitol, as the House prepared to vote on its revised measure. “The Trump temper tantrum may produce a government shutdown; it will not get him his wall.”

Mr. Trump appeared undeterred.

“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government has to include border security, has to,” Mr. Trump said during a ceremony at the White House, delivering a screed against illegal immigration that recalled the themes of his presidential campaign, including fearsome purported statistics suggesting many unauthorized immigrants were murderers and rapists. “We have no choice.”

Politico’s Rachel Bade has an excellent summary of what was going on behind the scenes yesterday and her colleagues Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan note that the developments yesterday put the House and Senate on a collision course that can only end in one of two ways:

House Republicans passed a stop-gap spending bill on Thursday that delivers $5 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall, setting up a standoff with the Senate that drastically raises the likelihood of a government shutdown this weekend.

By a 217-185 vote, House Republicans pushed through the measure, which extends the deadline for government funding until Feb. 8. It includes nearly $8 billion in emergency disaster aid for California, Florida and several other states.

House Republicans believe their bill is a starting point for negotiations with the Senate, which unanimously passed a clean funding bill on Wednesday night and quickly left town.

“The House has now passed a bill. The Senate passed a bill,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “Now we find where the common ground lies.”

But the House GOP proposal is D.O.A. in the Senate, where Democrats have vowed to reject any funding for the border wall. Government funding runs out at midnight Friday, meaning a partial government shutdown looks almost certain at this point.

“The bottom line is simple: The Trump temper tantrum will shut down the government, but it will not get him his wall,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters shortly before the House vote. Schumer was joined by House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is adamantly opposed to the wall.

House Republicans teed off on Pelosi after the House vote, noting repeatedly that she had told Trump at last week’s epic White House meeting that there weren’t enough votes to pass any bill with $5 billion in wall funding.

“All I know is that just one week ago, Nancy Pelosi was in the Oval Office and she said the House can’t pass a funding with border security wall dollars on it,” crowed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group of hardliners on immigration. “We just got 217 votes for that bill.”


Ryan, McCarthy and Scalise had been urging Trump to avoid a shutdown and agree to a stopgap funding measure that would keep the government open until Feb. 8. The party leaders initially argued that Senate Democrats will never approve Trump’s demand for another $5 billion in wall funding.

After the meeting, McCarthy changed direction and embraced Trump’s position.

“We had a great discussion with him now,” McCarthy said. “The president said that what the Senate sent over is just kicking the can down the road. We want to solve this problem, we want to keep the government open.”

Meadows and Jordan argued that once Democrats get control of the House on Jan. 3, Pelosi and her colleagues will never approve any money for the president’s border wall project so they had to act now.

Meadows, along with more than a dozen other conservatives, took to the House floor Wednesday night in a series of protest floor speeches demanding more money for the wall.

“[Trump] believes that his request is reasonable and certainly something that should be supported by the vast majority of Americans, and certainly by the vast majority of Congress,” said Meadows, who had been in the mix to become Trump’s chief of staff. “At this point, I don’t see a vote from a clean CR [continuing resolution] that has come over from the Senate being something that will have even close to the majority of the majority.”

Meadows — who privately appealed to Trump for support, a move that undermined Ryan and McCarthy — also said he didn’t want a stand-alone bill with wall funding. “There’s no leverage there, so I can’t imagine that would be a tactic anyone would use,” Meadows said.

House Republicans moved quickly Thursday night, one sign of progress during an otherwise ugly day for the party leadership. Even so, Sessions warned members of the rules panel to “stick around” through the evening.

“We’re gonna get it passed and send a clear message that we stand with the president in securing our border,” Scalise said, despite the fact that hours earlier he’d been pushing a short-term spending bill with no border wall money. “What I’ve always said is we need to support the president and give him the tools to keep the country safe.”

Not surprisingly the President has been on Twitter this morning talking about this:

The reality of what is going to happen is quite clear notwithstanding how assured House Republicans are of the righteousness of their cause. There is, simply put, no way that the spending bill with border wall funding will pass the Senate. In order for that to happen, Senate Majority Leader would either need a unanimous consent agreement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer or the support of enough Democrats to invoke cloture so that the bill can advance. In the first situation, it would be theoretically possible to get a bill passed and sent to the President in time to avoid a midnight shutdown. In the second, it would mean that the debate in the Senate would need to stretch out into the weekend a bit such that there would be a technical, albeit largely unnoticeable, shutdown of those agencies impacted by the spending bill. Neither of those things is likely to happen, though, because it seems clear that Senate Democrats will stay sufficiently united to block any spending bill that includes border wall funding. This means that the bill will fail in the Senate and the ball will be back in the hands of the President and House Republicans, who will either have to accept reality and pass the Senate bill without border wall funding or let the government shutdown at midnight.

At this point, it’s entirely unclear how the day will end.

More to come, obviously. In addition to the usual sources, those of you on Twitter can keep an eye on the latest developments by following my curated Twitter list of Capitol Hill reporters. And, of course, we’ll likely be back with an update before the day ends.


FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    As uncertainty reigned, stock prices tumbled, economic worries rose,[..]

    That’s the answer to those who ask “So what if the government shuts down?”

  2. Paul L. says:

    So much for the narrative that Republicans do not support the border wall in part because of the Blue Wave sweeping them from office.

    “When Obama threatened to not sign the Republican spending bill if there was no funding for Planned Parenthood, the looming shutdown was blamed on Congress.

    If Trump refuses to sign this one without funding for the wall, I’ll bet money that the same people who blamed the Congress will blame the president.

    “A rather major difference is that Trump is refusing to sign a bill passed by a Congress controlled by his own party (plus what Teve and Michael noted).””

  3. CSK says:

    Whoopsie. Trump’s in a rage because he just found out that Mulvaney called him “a terrible human being.”

  4. Todd says:

    My favorite Trump tweet this morning was the one where he wants McConnell to end the filibuster over this.

    Yes please.

    Democrats will control the House in less than 2 weeks, so the Senate filibuster won’t really matter for the next 2 years anyway.

    Then …

    When Democrats eventually get total control of the House/Senate/White House again themselves, they won’t have to be the ones to take the political hit associated with jettisoning the filibuster in order to implement their agenda.

    p.s. the legislative filibuster is going to go eventually, it’s just a matter of which side is the one to pull the trigger.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Todd: Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. they might here you.

  6. Kylopod says:


    Whoopsie. Trump’s in a rage because he just found out that Mulvaney called him “a terrible human being.”

    Pretty much everyone on Trump’s team has attacked him in the past at some point (and in the present, but in private); he doesn’t usually seem to mind as long he makes them into his doormat–or thinks he does.

  7. Kylopod says:


    the legislative filibuster is going to go eventually, it’s just a matter of which side is the one to pull the trigger.

    The fact that McConnell never even attempted to get rid of it in the entire last two years–despite Trump whining about it on Twitter every few months or so, despite the fact that it placed considerable constraints on the GOP’s ability to achieve valued policy goals, despite McConnell quickly scrapping the SCOTUS filibuster in early 2017–suggests it’s more resilient than it’s given credit. Do you really think Dems in the future will prove more ruthless and indifferent to institutional tradition than the GOP? Do you really think the GOP will do it in the future when they totally neglected to do so when it was well within their power?

  8. CSK says:


    Perhaps. But bear in mind that this week alone he’s gotten seriously dissed by Ann Coulter and James Mattis. Plus, Rex Tillerson basically called him an illiterate moron in a recent interview. The fact that people are laughing at him can no longer be ignored; it’s making him crazy. Or crazier.

  9. rachel says:

    OMG, Trump is an idiot. Too bad he was never been forced to continue working with the people he’d burned. If he had, he might have learned the long-term importance of operating in good faith. Now he’s burned Senate Republicans (again) for something they cannot and will not give him.

    How interested are they going to be in protecting him after the Mueller Report is submitted, the House is taking a microscopic look at all things Trump, and an even bigger majority of US citizens have come to despise him and heartily want him gone? If the House impeaches him, how many Senate Republicans are going to vote against convicting Trump when he alternately embarrasses them, sabotages them, and stabs them in the back all while expecting them to throw their dignity in the dirt for his ego?

    How many Republican Senators are even now looking forward to installing Pence?

  10. Todd says:

    @Kylopod: In a word, Yes. As polarized as our politics are now, things are only likely to get worse in the future. If we haven’t already, we will eventually reach a point where 41 committed partisans can and will stop even reasonable compromise from getting through the Senate, lest their base revolt and threaten credible primary challenges.

    Eliminating the legislative filibuster will become necessary for our govt to function at all.

    Alternatively, we’ll just see more of what the GOP already tried several times these past two years: attempts to expand what qualifies for inclusion in “reconciliation” bills that only require 50 votes to pass … effectively eliminating the legislative filibuster in all but name anyway.

  11. Jc says:

    @Todd: Would so love for that to happen – They own that change if they do it – Would be a beautiful thing

  12. Todd says:

    @Jc: Oh, it won’t happen. Mitch McConnell is a strategic thinker … unlike our current President who it seems doesn’t concern himself with the consequences of his actions, beyond what Fox & Friends might say the next morning.

  13. Teve says:

    @rachel: something that just occurred to me now. we know Mitch McConnell is the most ruthless asshole in Washington. surely he knows there’s no way Trump is winning reelection, and when that happens Republicans can forget about real power in Washington for at least eight years. The only shot they would have of retaining the presidency would be the reelection of pence. So it’s in the interest of Republican power that they impeach Trump.

  14. Kylopod says:


    But bear in mind that this week alone he’s gotten seriously dissed by Ann Coulter

    Ann Coulter? The one who said this last year:

    “I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues…. That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke…. Did we win anything? And this is the great negotiator? …. Well again, I’ll say we had no choice, but the Trump-haters were right…It’s a nightmare.”

    I confess I assumed Coulter was practically off his radar because she’s been one of his harshest critics on the non-Never-Trump right for quite a while.

  15. rachel says:

    @Teve: That’s an interesting thought. Hmm…

  16. CSK says:


    Coulter reverses herself on Trump as often as Trump reverses himself on…anything. Recall that back in 2016, she wrote a book entitled In Trump We Trust, which I’ve not read, but which I gather was an encomium to The Donald. She’s always made it clear that her first and only priority was building the wall; otherwise, as she said, she wouldn’t care if Trump performed abortions in the West Wing.

    But this week, because he was showing signs of defeat on the wall business, she essentially called his presidency a joke and Trump himself a d*ckless wonder.

  17. Kylopod says:


    She’s always made it clear that her first and only priority was building the wall; otherwise, as she said, she wouldn’t care if Trump performed abortions in the West Wing.

    But that’s just the point. She made it brutally clear that she couldn’t care less about him as a person, all that matters to her is what he proposed to do–and on this specific issue at that. Not exactly the sort of fawning adulation that Trump normally craves.

    On the other hand, it’s very possible Trump’s only knowledge of Coulter up to now has been the title of her book.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:


    I’ve contended for a while that when the Repugs determine that they will get nothing more from Trump and he hurts their prospects in 2020, the Senate will convict him if the House impeaches him. It is easy to imagine a meeting in a Capital Hill conference room, McConnell and his lieutenants, Schumer and the Dem counter parts along with Pelosi and various House committee chairs. The Mueller report has dropped, House, reinvigorated Senate investigations have fleshed out the details of Trump’s corruption and the SDNY and/or the NYAG have indicted the Trump Organization, that McConnell turns to Pelosi and tells her if the House impeaches there are the votes in the Senate to convict.

  19. Teve says:

    As a liberal, it would suck to have to run against pence in 2020 instead of trump. But as an American I would have to support getting rid of trump because he’s simply too destructive and horrible for the country.

  20. Kathy says:


    I hate to rain on your parade, but the three more important things are still: 1) the base, 2) the base, and 3) the base.

    Surely it will bother all GOP members of the House and Senate to be powerless politically in DC for the next term or the next two terms. But they’d be even more bothered being out of their Congressional jobs, because they were primaried by an upset Cheeto base.

  21. Teve says:

    @Kathy: Trump better pull a rabbit out of his hat because if he doesn’t get any funding for his nice big wall I don’t know how much longer the base is going to stick with him.

  22. Kathy says:


    We all hope for the silver lining in the shutdown cloud.

  23. Scott says:

    I don’t think it has been pointed out recently that in two years, the great dealmaker (TM) has yet to make any deals. I think the public needs to be reminded periodically of the fact.

  24. Kathy says:

    CNN is calling the shut down inevitable today. they even have a shut down count down clock in the site’s front page.

    Oh, the Senate has adjourned. They’ll be back tomorrow at noon.

    Apparently it takes a stable genius to engineer multiple shutdowns per year. Who knew? I’d assumed it was stupidity, but El Dennison says otherwise.