Chuck Schumer is taking his big spending boost for Donald Trump’s border wall off the table.
The Senate minority leader, through an aide, informed the White House that he was retracting the offer he made last week to give Trump well north of the $1.6 billion in wall funding Trump had asked for this year, according to two Democrats. And now they say Trump will simply not get a better deal than that on his signature campaign promise.
Schumer “took it off,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “He called the White House yesterday and said it’s over.”
After the publication of this story, a spokesman clarified that the wall offer was retracted Sunday, rather than Monday. Schumer told reporters that he withdrew his suggestion, offered midday Friday, because it was meant to be part of a broader package that would have averted a government shutdown.
“The thought was that we could come to an agreement that afternoon, the president would announce his support, and the Senate and the House would get it done and it would be on the president’s desk,” Schumer said Tuesday. “He didn’t do that. So we’re going to have to start on a new basis and so the wall offer is off the table.”
In the now-famous cheeseburger summit last Friday with Trump, Schumer offered a large increase in border wall spending as a condition for a broader deal to help Dreamers. But after that offer was rebuffed — prompting the three-day government shutdown — the president has now “missed an opportunity to get the wall,” one Democratic aide said.
Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said Tuesday that the Schumer offer “never existed.”
“You can’t rescind money you never really offered in the first place,” he said on Fox News.
But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) refuted that, saying the offer Schumer made to Trump totaled roughly $25 billion. A spokesman for Schumer declined to confirm that figure.
Some key Republicans — including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a key GOP immigration negotiator — had already considered using the promise of border wall funding totaling more than $1.6 billion to lure more conservative votes. A Dreamer plan written by a bipartisan group of six senators, including Flake, had included Trump’s $1.6 billion request as part of a broader, $2.7 billion border security package.
“Sen. Schumer’s already indicated that he would go for more. Republicans will go for more,” Flake said. “It’s just how much more we can get from the Democrats.”
Republicans aligned with Trump are unlikely to go for any bill that does not offer a major boost in border wall funding, given the president’s strong feelings about the issue. Moreover, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he was skeptical of Schumer’s recollection of the meeting and the border wall offer anyway.
“They claim that some crazy deal was made,” Cotton said of Democrats. “And then when we say no deal was made, they accuse Republicans and the president of reneging.”
But providing border wall money could also push away more liberal Democrats, who prefer to completely restart negotiations rather than start from any existing bill, even a bipartisan one like the proposal written by Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“Discussions were had coming up to Friday night are interesting for context,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). But now, he said, “we start from a blank sheet of paper.”
Cristiano Lima contributed to this report.