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Border wall, health care jeopardize bill days from shutdown

WASHINGTON — Partisan disputes over health care and President Donald Trump’s border wall threw must-pass spending legislation into jeopardy Monday days ahead of a government shutdown deadline.

The border wall money is fiercely opposed by Democrats, whose votes are needed to pass the legislation, and they are equally incensed over Trump’s threat to deprive former President Barack Obama’s health care law of key funds to help poor people.

Those were the most pressing unresolved issues confronting lawmakers as they returned from a two-week spring recess to face a critical deadline. Congress must pass a $1 trillion catch-all spending bill to pay for all agencies of government by midnight Friday or trigger a partial shutdown the next day, which happens to coincide with the 100th day of Trump’s presidency.

The standoff echoed similar spending fights during the Obama administration when Republicans would push to “defund” Obama’s health law over the objections of Democrats. Even though Republicans now control both chambers of Congress and the White House the dynamics are not all that different, given Democrats still have leverage and Republicans fear that as the party in charge, they would shoulder the blame from any shutdown.

“The most important thing is to make sure the military is funded, to make sure the critical institutions of government are funded, and to make sure you don’t have a shutdown while you’ve got a Republican president, a Republican Senate and a Republican House,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said on MSNBC.

It’s increasingly obvious that the House and Senate will have to pass a temporary funding extension of a few days or more to prevent a shutdown this weekend and allow more time for talks.

“I do not think the election was a referendum on building a wall to the tune of tens of billions of dollars,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The negotiations over the spending bill took center stage despite a separate White House push for fast action to revive health care legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. After signaling last week that they hoped for a vote as soon as this week on a rewritten health bill, White House officials softened their stance Monday. Echoing the views of House GOP leaders, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there would be a vote on health care legislation when House leaders count the 216 votes needed to pass it.

“I think we want to make sure that we’ve got the votes and we’re headed in the right direction before putting some artificial deadline,” Spicer said.