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Senate set for floor showdown over Trump border wall

The Hill logo The Hill 9/17/2019 Jordain Carney
Mitch McConnell wearing a suit and tie: Senate set for floor showdown over Trump border wall © Greg Nash Senate set for floor showdown over Trump border wall

A simmering fight over President Trump's border wall is poised to come to a head on the Senate floor this week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Monday that he will start trying to move funding bills on the floor this week, forcing Democrats to decide whether or not to block the legislation.

"One week in, our Democratic colleagues tried to stonewall the defense funding bill in committee and are now indicating they may even filibuster a motion to begin considering the House-passed defense bill later this week," McConnell said.

"Some of our Democratic colleagues have determined they would rather stage a political fight with President Trump than secure the resources that our uniform commanders need to do their jobs," McConnell continued.

The Senate would use the House-passed bills as vehicles for their own funding legislation.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its bill to fund the Pentagon, as well as separate energy and water development spending legislation last week.

But the defense bill isn't expected to be able to get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass after Republicans rejected including language that would require Trump to get congressional sign off before shifting Pentagon money toward the border wall.

Democrats are fuming after the Pentagon moved forward with a plan to redirect $3.6 billion in military construction funds toward the wall as part of an emergency declaration declaration earlier this year.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly hit back over McConnell's accusation that Democrats wanted a political fight with Trump.

"It was a bold accusation, considering it was the president and the Republican majority on the appropriations committee that proposed taking funding from the military to spend on the president's wall. That is what Democrats oppose," Schumer said.

In addition to a fight over the defense bill, Republicans on the Appropriations Committee called off scheduled votes on a State Department funding bill, as well as mammoth bill that funded Health and Human Services, Labor and Education because of concerns that Democrats would try to insert abortion-related language.

Republicans and Democrats are also at loggerheads over a deal that would set top-line spending figures for all twelve fiscal 2020 appropriations bills. Republicans cleared their own funding levels through the Appropriations Committee last week but Democrats opposed the figures, known as 302 B's, arguing that Republicans were padding extra money toward the homeland security bill.

The House has already passed 10 of the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills, but action in the Senate this week will mark the first time McConnell has tried to bring a bill to the floor.

The looming floor fight comes as lawmakers have less than two weeks to get a deal to fund the government past Sept .30.

The House is expected to vote on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) this week that would fund the government through Nov. 21.


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