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Chuck Schumer vows to shut down government over border wall funding — but still blames Republicans

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding and President Donald Trump's border wall. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed Monday to shut down the government, warning Senate Republicans that his caucus will not vote for any government spending bill that either defunds Planned Parenthood or funds construction of President Donald Trump’s planned border wall.

"If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy," Schumer and other top Senate Democratic leaders wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Bloomberg reported.

The current short-term government funding bill expires April 28. Lawmakers will need to pass another funding bill before then to avoid a government shut down.

Schumer said Democrats' main concerns center on Trump's proposed border wall.

"First, many experts believe that such a border wall will not work. Second, there is real concern that the administration, put simply, has no plan to build the border wall," he wrote. "Finally, there are objections to the construction of a wall from Democratic and Republican members of Congress that represent border states.

"Given these and other concerns, we believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration," Schumer explained.

There's no doubt that Schumer would be able to deliver on his promise to shut down the government. Republicans, who control a slight majority in the Senate with 52 seats, need eight Democrats to jump on board to end any filibusters of a must-pass government funding bill.

But Republicans do have some leverage. Ten Democratic senators face re-election in the 2018 midterms in states that Trump won last November. So if Democrats make good on their promise to shut down the government, Trump could simply argue that Republicans are implementing the agenda they promised, making a government stalemate a risk that vulnerable Democrats simply can't afford to take.

Still, there are questions as to how Trump's border wall will be funded. Throughout his campaign, Trump promised that he would force Mexico to foot the bill. But those promises wavered as last year's campaign got closer to Election Day. And when asked last month whether he thought Mexico would pay for the border wall, McConnell simply replied, "Uh, no."

The government was last shut down in October 2013 for 16 days after conservative Republican senators, including Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), fought to defund Obamacare.

During those 16 days, hundreds of thousands of government employees were furloughed, while non-essential government agencies and programs shut down. The mainstream media and Democrats heavily vilified those conservative senators, with Cruz feeling the brunt of the anger. Ultimately, their fight came to an end, and Obamacare funding went on.

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