“We have $1.6 billion, but we’re going to ask for an increase in wall spending so we can finish it quicker,” Trump said as he convened the meeting with several House and Senate Republicans who sit on the appropriations committees. “It stops the drugs. It stops people that we don’t want to have. And it gives us security and safety.”
Yet the divide over how much to spend on Trump’s prized border wall remains a serious point of contention until September because of Democratic resistance and a GOP that needs their help with passing spending bills, particularly in the Senate.
The White House formally requested $1.6 billion in wall funding this year, although administration officials have since quietly raised that to about $2.2 billion. Last week, a key Senate panel rebuffed Trump’s demands and passed a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security covering only the initial $1.6 billion request.
Trump was not specific about how much he wants for his wall during Tuesday’s meeting, according to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). Meanwhile, the House has yet to release its funding blueprint for DHS and the correlating funds for a border wall, although Rogers said he thinks Congress would ultimately provide more than what the Senate allocated.
Still, “it remains to be seen” whether Trump can get the wall money he wants, said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who attended the meeting at the White House on Tuesday.
“Appropriations bills require 60 votes in the Senate,” Diaz-Balart said. “And so that’s gonna be where the big speed bump is, on a lot of things.”
The 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation in the Senate has been a long-simmering frustration for Trump, who has repeatedly tweeted demands to gut the filibuster, even as most senators, careful to protect an institution that prizes minority rights, have resisted.
At Tuesday’s discussion, Trump had ample backup from impatient House members who stressed that they, too, would like the Senate to dump the 60-vote requirement — at least on individual spending bills that have struggled to pass Congress in recent years.
“Enjoyed lunch w/ @POTUS today discussing Approps. Including the spirited debate w/ Senate colleagues when I brought up their archaic 60-vote requirement,” tweeted Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.).
But the senators inside the room pushed back against Trump, with each of them making their case about the merits of the filibuster, attendees said. A broad majority of senators oppose getting rid of the 60-vote requirement for legislation, although that threshold has already been eliminated for all judicial and executive branch nominations.
“He’d like us to pass everything by 51 votes, but he wouldn’t like it if Bernie Sanders were in charge and it was Bernie Sanders’s agenda that passed by 51 votes,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), recounting the argument that he made to Trump.
Trump also underscored during the meeting with Republicans that he did not want to sign another massive omnibus funding bill like the one he begrudgingly endorsed in March.
“He doesn’t want to sign one,” Alexander said. “We don’t want to pass it.”
The debate over arcane Senate rules — part of an extensive discussion described as “lively” and “animated” by those who attended — appeared to be partly why the White House meeting was so lengthy.
“It went on for, like, 40 minutes,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said of the filibuster discussion. Sighing, he added: “It lasted a very long time.”