Uncertainty mounts as Congress seeks to avoid government shutdown

Confusion swept across Capitol Hill Thursday morning as Republicans faced stiff opposition over a short-term spending bill needed to avert a partial government shutdown.

Conservatives along with President Donald Trump continued to demand new money for a border wall in the legislation, complicating the House passage of a bill approved by the Senate the night before.

While the Senate passed a stop-gap spending bill Wednesday night that would fund the remaining parts of the government through February 8, 2019, the measure still needs to be approved by the House and signed by the President before it can take effect.

But House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Thursday morning with mixed signals on whether the President would support the measure, as it faces significant opposition from conservatives who are demanding the President’s request for $5 billion be fulfilled.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “The President is having a meeting with Republican House Members at noon today.¬†At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options.”

A source tells CNN House Speaker Paul Ryan took a phone call from Trump during the House GOP Conference meeting.

Republican leaders huddled after the meeting in Ryan’s office as they considered next steps, including whether to add more money to the stopgap spending bill, such as wall funding and disaster aid being separately demanded by a number of members.

Making any changes to the bill at this point could complicate passage and add hurdles to passing the bill on time by midnight Friday.

Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told CNN Thursday the state of play on the spending bill is “very fluid right now.” Meadows and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, two of the House’s most conservative members, are among the Republican leaders going to a midday White House meeting. House Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise is also expected to attend.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal had the backing of the top congressional Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and top congressional Republicans have indicated they were optimistic that the President would sign the measure.

Pelosi, however, argued the situation was descending into a “meltdown” among Republicans. While she expressed openness to additional funds for issues like disaster aid, she said wall funding would be a dealbreaker for Democrats.

“We’ll see what they come up with in terms of disaster assistance, we’ll see. But in terms of wall funding, that’s a non-starter.”

New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins told CNN that at a closed-door meeting Thursday morning Speaker Paul Ryan indicated that he expected the CR to pass and Trump to sign it.

Other Republicans, however, were less certain. “I think the next few days could get complicated real fast,” said Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Asked whether the President will sign the bill, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said “that is the million dollar question.”

“Or, rather I should say, that is the $5 billion question,” he added. “I wish we had clarity on that.”

The House GOP conference meeting this morning was a “strong rebuke” against the short-term spending bill passed by the Senate, according to North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Walker. “There wasn’t any ambiguity in the room today,” Walker told CNN.

“We’ve got to stay here and get this job done and get border security passed,” Walker said. “The Senate’s voice vote on the CR was strongly rejected by the conference this morning.”

The North Carolina Republican said one member who hadn’t spoken in the conference in eight years stood up to speak Thursday and that Rep. Virginia Foxx’s husband called her from back home to say you’ve got to get the wall done. “It wasn’t just one group or one caucus; It was across the board,” Walker said.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” said Rep. Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon.

The measure faces opposition from a broad group of conservatives. Members of the House Freedom Caucus and other conservative allies of the President spoke on the House floor Wednesday night, urging Trump not to abandon new money for border wall funding.

Jordan, speaking on the floor, blasted the idea of postponing another spending bill fight to February, when Democrats will hold the majority in the House.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, really? I mean February 8th? When Nancy Pelosi is speaker? I’m supposed to believe, we’re supposed to believe that we’re then going to build the border security wall and keep our promise from the 2016 campaign? No way!” Jordan said.

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