U.S. government shutdown looms as House passes wall funds for Trump

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday added $5 billion to a government spending bill for President Donald Trump's wall on the southern border with Mexico, a move that boosted the odds of a partial federal shutdown on Saturday.

The bill must return to the Senate, where it is unlikely to find the Democratic votes needed to pass it. If the impasse continues, funding for agencies responsible for federal law enforcement activities, airport security screenings, space exploration and farm programs will lapse at midnight on Friday.

Trump had said he would not sign a Senate-passed bill to keep the government running through Feb. 8 because it lacked funds for the wall, so Republicans in the House of Representatives scrambled to add money to appease Trump.

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Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown
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Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown
The entrance to the office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is decorated for the holidays as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol is seen under early morning skies in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. The Senate approved legislation to temporarily fund the government late last night, a key step toward averting a federal shutdown after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for a border wall with Mexico. The House is expected to vote before Friday's deadline, when funding for a portion of the government expires. Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal workers would face furloughs or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leave after talking to reporters as a revised spending bill is introduced in the House that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., walks to the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan walks to the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, arrive to talk to reporters as a revised spending bill is introduced in the House that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, heads into a House Republican strategy meeting as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Reporters at the Capitol wait for Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to return from the White House as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the chamber as President Donald Trump and Congress bicker over terms for funding the government and his demand for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing the government to the brink of a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., top, is met by reporters at the Capitol after he and Speaker Paul Ryan returned from the White House as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, speaks during a television interview at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. President Donald Trump insisted on funding a wall or other barrier along the southern U.S. border as tensions over a possible partial government shutdown intensified in the wake of the presidents refusal to sign a stopgap spending bill. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Trump demanded $5 billion to put toward his campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico that he argues is needed to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs, a down payment on a massive project which Democrats have rejected as ineffective and wasteful.

"The bill that's on the floor of the House, everyone knows will not pass the Senate," Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters ahead of the vote.

The funding uncertainty weighed on markets on Thursday but was dwarfed by another bombshell on the Trump administration after the close: the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Trump, who accused Democrats of playing politics with the border wall, has said he sees it as a winning issue for his 2020 re-election campaign. Last week in a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, he said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security."

Hard-right conservative pundits and lawmakers have urged Trump to push for border wall funding now, even if it leads to a shutdown, arguing that it would be impossible to get once Democrats take control of the House on Jan. 3.

"It's really about a president that is not willing to fold without a fight," Republican Representative Mark Meadows said in an interview on Fox News.

Trump had planned to leave Washington for a two-week vacation at his private resort in Florida, but the White House said he would not go in the event of a shutdown.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Steve Holland and Ginger Gibson; additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Makini Brice, Mohammad Zargham and Chuck Mikolajczak; Writing by Roberta Rampton; editing by Bill Trott, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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