By Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Thursday that there’ll be no “wall money” in any compromise border security deal as she and President Donald Trump signaled that congressional negotiators may never satisfy his demands for his cherished Southwest border proposal.
Trump, who in recent weeks has expressed indifference to whether the term “wall” or something else is used, clung with renewed tenacity to the word that became his campaign mantra, declaring, “A wall is a wall.” Yet in a series of tweets and statements, he issued conflicting messages about what he’d need to declare victory and suggested that merely repairing existing structures along the boundary could be a major component of a triumph.
Amid signs that Trump’s leverage in Congress is atrophying, he seemed to aim one tweet at his conservative followers. He wrote that Democrats “are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!”
Pelosi, D-Calif., left the door open for an accord that could finance some barriers, citing what she said was already existing “Normandy fencing” that blocks vehicles.
“If the president wants to call that a wall, he can call that a wall,” she told reporters. She added: “Is there a place for enhanced fencing? Normandy fencing would work.”
Yet Pelosi’s other remark — “There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation” — underscored the linguistic battle underway. It also showed that Democrats see no reason to let Trump claim a win in a cause that stirs his hard-right voters and enrages liberals.
Trump’s political muscle weakened following Democrats’ capture of House control in the November election. It waned further after his surrender last week in ending a record 35-day partial government shutdown without getting a penny of the $5.7 billion he’d demanded to start building the wall.
In another sign of his flagging hold over lawmakers, the GOP-controlled Senate backed legislation on a 68-23 vote Thursday that opposes withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
When Trump folded on the shutdown, he agreed to reopen government until Feb. 15, giving lawmakers more time to craft a bipartisan border security compromise.
If there’s no deal by then, Trump has threatened to revive the shutdown or declare a national emergency, which he claims would let him shift billions from unrelated military construction projects to erecting his wall. He criticized Democrats’ negotiating stance so far, telling reporters in the Oval Office that Pelosi is “just playing games” and saying GOP bargainers are “wasting their time.”
Read the full story on the Associated Press website.