White House loses it over sanctuary cities: Team Trump threatens a government shutdown

The White House wants to defund cities that harbor undocumented immigrants and is serious about it

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 12, 2017 3:56PM (EDT)

 (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Who knew victory could be this bruising?

After battling their way back from near total decimation, Republicans clawed their way to control of the federal government in November — only to be consumed by bitter intraparty fighting. Led by the White House, some Republicans are now threatening to shut down the government in order to extract concessions from members of their own party.

When Congress returns from its two-week recess, it will have just five days to avoid a shutdown before federal funding runs out on April 28. As if successful negotiating among Republicans hasn’t proved difficult enough with the disastrous failure of Trumpcare, immigration hard-liners in the Trump administration and Congress are reportedly threatening to shut down the government in an effort to compel so-called sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal law enforcement officials.

According to Politico, budget director Mick Mulvaney is asking Congress to include language in its next must-pass budget bill that would potentially hold hostage billions of dollars in state grants. The crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities — local jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities to arrest immigrants solely on the charge that they lack proper citizenship papers — is an effort to lure the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus into voting for the budget.

Trump had vowed during his presidential campaign to "cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities," and shortly after taking office, the president signed an executive order that sought to force localities to comply with the federal requests. Trump even directed federal officials to publish a weekly list of declined detainers and the immigrants who were released by so-called sanctuary cities. That plan was aborted this week, however, due to concerns about the report's inaccuracies.

Any budget bill will need at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate to pass. Democrats have called the White House’s request for additional funding for Trump’s border wall money a “poison pill” that would shut down the government. And a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee's ranking Democratic member, Nita Lowey, has already called Mulvaney’s maneuver “a non-starter,” according to Politico.

Mulvaney, who as a Republican congressman voted in favor of the 2015 government shutdown, recently told CNBC’s John Harwood that while he doesn’t believe there is a high likelihood the government will be forced to temporarily shut down, “consequences have been blown out of proportion."

“If you measure it in terms of the dollars out the door, about 83 percent of the government stays open in a government shut-down,” Mulvaney explained.  

“Elections have consequences," Trump's budget director told WBT in Charlotte. "The president needs to see his priorities funded."

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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