WASHINGTON – A looming, partial government shutdown would be "stupid" but might be unavoidable if Democrats refuse to support President Donald Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico, the second-ranking House Republican said on Thursday.
Even if Republicans assemble enough votes to approve the wall in the House, the plan probably will fail in the Senate, said Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. The House majority leader noted that Senate Democrats have pledged to block the bill from receiving the necessary 60 votes.
McCarthy said on the House floor that he thinks "going into a shutdown is stupid," but he offered no immediate plan before the Dec. 21 deadline. The House adjourned for six days soon after his remarks.
McCarthy's comments put him at odds with Trump, who said this week that he would be "proud to shut down the government" in the name of border security.
"I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down," Trump said Tuesday at a contentious White House meeting with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
Trump kept up the pressure Thursday, saying in a video released by the White House that Schumer and other Democrats were once in favor of border barriers, but now oppose them because of Trump.
Calling Democrats "absolute hypocrites," Trump said, "They only don't want to do it because of me. They have to put the people ahead of politics."
Trump's insistence on the wall — and his willingness to shoulder blame for shutting the government — have made it difficult for Republican leaders to negotiate even as they try to avoid a shutdown that neither party wants.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate's No 2 Republican, said he does not understand Trump's strategy. "Maybe he's figured it out and he'll tell us in due course, but I don't understand it," Cornyn told The Washington Post.
Pelosi, who talked with Trump briefly by telephone after the televised Oval Office session, said Thursday that Trump's embrace of a shutdown was unfortunate.
"Perhaps he doesn't understand people need their paychecks. Maybe that's not the life he leads," she said about the wealthy former Manhattan real estate developer.
"It's not enough to say, 'We'll pay you in January,' when people have to make ends meet in December," Pelosi said.
Pelosi and other Democrats said there is strong, bipartisan support to keep the government open. "The only obstacle is the president of the United States," she said, adding that she and Schumer were not negotiating with Trump on the wall request.
Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security that includes fencing and other technology, but not a concrete wall. "We're not going to $5 billion for the wall. We simply are not," she said.
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Republicans will be responsible if a shutdown happens. He noted that the GOP controls the House, Senate and the White House; Democrats will take power in the House in January.
Hoyer and other Democrats said Republicans should approve six of the remaining seven appropriations bills needed to keep the government open, and pass a separate measure covering the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Sept. 30. Homeland Security would be responsible for building the wall along the border with Mexico.
"It's clear we do not have agreement on the Homeland Security appropriations bill," Hoyer said, but lawmakers from both parties agree on six other spending bills.
"Wouldn't that make sense for the American people for us to pass the 95 percent on which we have reached agreement after hard work all year?" Hoyer asked in floor remarks directed at McCarthy. "And on that which we can't agree, (lawmakers should) agree that we can't agree and fight that another day," Hoyer said.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, said his party would fight for Trump's $5 billion request, but he also encouraged bipartisan talks to continue.
"The issue has always been what the Senate can or can't do, and that's why the president is involved in the negotiations," Scalise said.
If the two sides do not make a deal by Dec. 21, about one-quarter of the government will be affected, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.