Trump's budget chief says money for border wall a must

Posted: April 21, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about the Trump Administration's budget proposal during daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Money for the wall President Donald Trump wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico must be part of the large spending bill Congress is preparing, the White House budget director says.

Additional funding also must be included to hire more immigration agents, Mick Mulvaney told The Associated Press in an interview in which he laid out the top priorities of the president.

Lawmakers hope to unveil the catchall spending bill next week. Democratic negotiators are likely to resist providing the down payment that Mulvaney says Trump wants for construction of the wall, but the former GOP congressman from South Carolina adds that "elections have consequences."

Mulvaney also said the administration is open, though undecided, about a key Democratic demand that the measure pay for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under the Affordable Care Act.

The $1 trillion-plus legislation is leftover business from last year's election-season gridlock and would cover the operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Veterans Affairs.

Talks on the measure have hit a rough patch as a deadline to avert a government shutdown looms late next week.

Democratic votes are likely to be needed to pass whatever bill emerges from the talks, and Senate Democrats could bottle it up entirely if they object to provisions that they deem to be "poison pills" — such as the money for the wall. Trump campaigned for president on the promise of building the wall and sticking Mexico with the tab.

"A shutdown is never a desired end and neither is it a strategy," Mulvaney said.

Democrats are confident that Republicans, controlling both House and Senate, would bear the blame for any shutdown, even as Democrats wield power in the talks.

"We have the leverage and they have the exposure," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told fellow Democrats on a Thursday conference call, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.