Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly is finding himself breaking with his party’s leadership and joining in on the Republican chorus to fund a southern border wall.
Ahead of a crucial congressional election in November, the vulnerable Indiana Democrat is expressing support for funding the wall in what seems to be an effort to gain votes.
One of the most vulnerable Democratic senators said he supports giving President Donald Trump billions of dollars for his border wall — a sharp break from the rest of the party planning to spurn Trump’s wall in spending negotiations this fall.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who is facing a new round of ads criticizing his position on immigration this week, said that Trump should get much more than the $1.6 billion the Senate Appropriations Committee has been preparing to send him. Trump has repeatedly threatened to shut the government down either before or after the election without a significant infusion of money to fulfill his signature campaign promise, often telling lawmakers he wants $5 billion in the September spending bill.
The moderate Democrat says he does “not want under any circumstances” a shutdown. So he said Congress should “absolutely” provide the president with a larger amount of border wall funding this fall to avoid one.
Donnelly said he is ok giving Trump exactly what he is asking for ahead of the September funding showdown to avoid a government shut down.
“I’m fine with providing him some more. I actually voted for border wall funding three different times,” Donnelly said, as Politico reports. “I’m fine with that. I’m fine with $3 [billion], $3.5 [billion], $4 [billion] or $5[billion].”
Donnelly said he supported Trump’s immigration package-deal which included all $25 billion to cover the border wall and a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people in the country illegally.
Donnelly’s Republican opponent in the senatorial race, Mike Braun, is looking to capitalize on the wavered support among Democrats over the wall. He also questioned the authenticity of Donnelly’s support for the wall:
But as Trump makes a potential pre-midterm stand on the wall, Donnelly’s opponent, GOP nominee Mike Braun, accused Donnelly of having an election-year epiphany in supporting more border money as part of the spending bill.
“My gut would tell me he wasn’t saying that nine, 10 months ago,” Braun said in an interview after an event in Mishawaka, Indiana. “He’s going to probably even be cut some slack by his base so he can stay alive and have a chance of staying in contention.”
Donnelly’s position could change the debate in Washington, where GOP leaders are shying away from a confrontation over the border wall ahead of the November elections. For now, many Republicans believe that only a handful of Democrats would support $5 billion in border wall funding, so leaders seem less interested in putting it up for a vote that could allow endangered Democrats to vote for it even as it fails.
As Fox News reports, Donnelly also broke with his Democrat colleagues on the issue of abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in an interview Monday broke with his liberal base, opposing single-payer healthcare and rejecting calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” Donnelly said, of the demands to dismantle ICE rippling through the Democratic Party in the aftermath of the child separations crisis sparked by President’s Trump’s zero tolerance policy for families caught illegally crossing the Southern border. “It’s important that we have strong, and safe, and secure borders, and ICE is a part of that.”
The congressional election in November could not be more consequential as Republicans are looking to expand their majorities in both the Senate and the House and Democrats are looking to capture at least one chamber. Republicans garnering more members would help President Trump push more of his agenda through the legislative body; more Democrats means more gridlock and pushback of Trump’s agenda.