Donald Trump works to hold GOP base before Senate vote
President Trump rallied support among conservatives Wednesday for his border wall, as business leaders and even some in the White House expressed growing concern about the economic impact of the partial government shutdown.
In a conference call with state leaders and in meetings with activists at the White House, Mr. Trump hammered home themes that the barrier is vital to protecting Americans from crime and drug smuggling. The president said congressional Democrats who are refusing his funding demands “have become a very dangerous party for this country.”
“We have to have a wall,” Mr. Trump told conservative leaders summoned to the Cabinet room for a late afternoon meeting.
A new poll showed the president receiving strong support from Republican voters on a wall, but less support for shutting down the government over the issue.
The CBS News poll found that 78 percent of Republicans believe the wall is necessary for border security, with 21 percent saying the border can be secured without a wall.
But a smaller majority of GOP voters, 56 percent, say it’s worth shutting down the government over the wall, while 43 percent of Republicans disagree.
Overall, 71 percent of respondents in the survey said a border wall isn’t worth a government shutdown.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday on Mr. Trump’s compromise offer to Democrats, which would give him $5.7 billion for border barriers in exchange for protections for about 1 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and others with temporary immigration status. Some conservatives have accused Mr. Trump of offering amnesty and several of the conservative leaders who met with Mr. Trump at the White House acknowledged that their base is anxious.
“There’s a lot of discomfort in the conservative movement with it,” said Ken Cuccinelli, head of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “But we understand his attempt to govern.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Mr. Trump has offered Democrats “a very generous compromise.”
“So much so that many on the right are bristling,” Mr. Perkins said.
But he added, “As conservatives, we stand with this president. The American people appreciate his resolve.”
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said of the group’s members, “They support what the president is doing. They want him to hold firm on a wall.”
Americans believe the partial government shutdown is having an impact, with 6 in 10 respondents in the CBS News poll saying it is causing serious problems for the country.
White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett said Wednesday that if the shutdown extends through March, there’s a chance that economic growth this quarter could drop to zero, after relatively robust growth of 3 percent or more in each of the past four quarters.
“The first quarter has tended to be weak ... with an extended shutdown, we could end up with a number that’s very low,” Mr. Hassett said on CNN.
Asked if the nation could see zero growth, Mr. Hassett said, “Yes we could.”
A leading business group said Wednesday that the 33-day-old partial government shutdown is hurting the economy.
The Business Roundtable, representing employers with 15 million workers, urged Congress and the administration to “work together to end” the impasse.
“The shutdown is harming the U.S. economy and American workers, both federal employees and those in the private sector supporting government functions,” the group said. “The shutdown is also preventing policymakers from focusing on solutions to create strong, sustained economic growth in America.”
It said a bipartisan solution “will allow the country to move forward with an agenda to maximize opportunities for U.S. workers and support economic growth.”
Studies by economic analysts also say the shutdown could curtail growth, with 800,000 federal employees not receiving paychecks and federal contractors losing business. The full impact isn’t yet known, and some of the government agencies that track economic growth data are themselves shuttered.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Tuesday that he expects to see “an immediate snapback” for the economy when the shutdown ends.
“When the government reopens and I’m not here to negotiate, I’m not going to make a prediction, that’s up to the president you will see an immediate snapback,” Mr. Kudlow said.
Most companies have reported stronger-than-expected earnings for the last three months of 2018. Stocks traded slightly higher Wednesday after the release of strong corporate earnings reports from IBM, United Technologies and Procter Gamble.