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Playing Chicken

Taking Fire From the Right, Trump Backtracks on Funding Compromise with Veto Threat

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WASHINGTON, December 20, 2018 — A carefully-negotiated compromise to avoid a partial government shutdown is in danger after President Trump suggested he would reject any funding bill that does not include money for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

As recently as Wednesday evening, lawmakers appeared poised to pass a so-called continuing resolution to fund the government through February and allow further negotiations on the seven remaining appropriations bills for the 2019 fiscal year, which began in October.

Both houses of Congress initially moved quickly to get the bill to the president’s desk before the current funding bill expires at midnight on Friday. The Senate approved its version of the latest continuing resolution by voice vote late Wednesday and the House appeared ready to close out the 115th Congress by moving its own version Thursday morning.

But Trump, who in recent days has been sent reeling by criticism from some of his most ardent supporters, appears to have decided to and energize his base by making unilateral moves towards outcomes which can be touted as “promises kept” by his allies.

One source with close ties to the administration told BeltwayBreakfast that Trump had made up his mind to veto any funding bill after the publication of a scathing rebuke by conservative columnist Ann Coulter.

Coulter, who authored a book in support of his candidacy entitled “In Trump We Trust,” has largely been one of the president’s staunchest apologists so long as he has remained committed to a restrictionist immigration policy.

The controversial author attacked Trump as “gutless” for backing down earlier this week.

Trump, Coulter said, was wasting his final chance to convince a Republican-controlled Congress to help him fulfill what had been his signature campaign promise.

“In the end, we’ll probably find out “wall” was Trump’s “safe word” with Stormy Daniels,” she wrote on Wednesday. “It’s just something he blurts out whenever he’s in trouble.”

While he stopped following Coulter’s Twitter account after she criticized him earlier this week, Trump appeared to have taken her concerns to heart by Thursday morning, when in an early-morning tweet, he warned incoming Democratic House that he would not sign any bill passed by Congress without “perfect border security,” including a barrier made out of “steel slats.”

“The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security,” Trump tweeted.

He returned to the subject several hours later, lamenting that the border security measures House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had promised him by year’s end when he signed legislation to fund the government for 2018 not yet materialized.

“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries – but not for our beloved U.S.A,” Trump wrote, characterizing the situation as “Not good!”

In a statement emailed to reporters, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would meet with House Republicans at noon Thursday to discuss options for funding border security to his satisfaction.

“At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall,” Sanders said. “The President is continuing to weigh his options.”

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

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