U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said Tuesday that indications that President Donald Trump will relent on his demand that Congress immediately fund construction of a border wall should enable the federal government to avoid a shutdown.
“Don’t breathe easily, but don’t hold your breath,” Roberts, a Dodge City Republican, said in a phone call.
The White House has sent mixed signals about whether Trump will stick to a demand for funding of a border wall after centering his presidential campaign on the promise that Mexico would pay to construct a wall.
Roberts said that if Trump agrees to separate that issue from the passage of a continuing resolution to fund the federal budget, which appears increasingly likely, then “we ought to be able to come together and avoid any kind of a shutdown.”
Both chambers of Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution by Friday night to avert a shutdown. Republicans will need at least eight Democrats to achieve the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster in the 100-member U.S. Senate, and the border wall demand would make that difficult to achieve.
Roberts, who has served in Congress since 1981, has experienced multiple shutdowns during his career, most recently in 2013 after a standoff over the Affordable Care Act led to a 16-day federal shutdown under President Barack Obama.
“I’ve been through every one of those damn things, and they’re so counterproductive,” Roberts said.
Roberts recalled World War II and Vietnam veterans being blocked from the war memorials in Washington, D.C., in 2013 because the National Park Service put up barriers in the shutdown. He said some of the veterans decided to pick up the barriers and move them.
“They were going to march them to the White House and put them up against the fences,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if they ever got that far, but I was trapped in this situation where they said, ‘Come on, Roberts. You’re a Marine. Help us.’ So what am I going to do? So I helped pick up — and somebody has a picture of me somewhere of picking up a barrier and marching along with them.”