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Funding Govt Without Wall a Possiblity 12/19 06:34

   President Donald Trump appeared to back off his demand for $5 billion to 
build a border wall, signaling for the first time that he might be open to a 
deal that would avoid a partial government shutdown.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump appeared to back off his demand 
for $5 billion to build a border wall, signaling for the first time that he 
might be open to a deal that would avoid a partial government shutdown.

   The White House set the tone Tuesday when press secretary Sarah Huckabee 
Sanders indicated that Trump doesn't want to shut down the government, though 
just last week he said he'd be "proud" to do so. The president would consider 
other options and the administration was looking at ways to find the money 
elsewhere, Sanders said.

   It was a turnaround after days of impasse. Without a resolution, more than 
800,000 government workers could be furloughed or sent to work without pay 
beginning at midnight Friday, disrupting government operations days before 
Christmas.

   One option that has been circulating on Capitol Hill would be to simply 
approve government funding at existing levels, without a boost for the border, 
as a stopgap measure to kick the issue into the new Congress next month. The 
chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., 
confirmed late Tuesday his office was preparing legislation to keep government 
funded, likely into February. The White House preference was for a longer-term 
package, although the conversation remained fluid and Trump has been known to 
quickly change course, said a person familiar with the negotiations but not 
authorized to discuss them by name.

   "We want to know what can pass," Sanders said at a press briefing. "Once 
they make a decision and they put something on the table, we'll make a 
determination on whether we'll move forward."

   She also said the president "has asked every agency to look and see if they 
have money that can be used."

   The turn of events kick-started negotiations that had been almost 
nonexistent since last week's televised meeting at the White House, when Trump 
neither accepted nor rejected the Democrats' offer. They had proposed keeping 
funding at current levels of $1.3 billion for border security fencing and other 
improvements, but not for the wall.

   The Senate's top Republican and Democratic leaders began negotiating new 
proposals and talks were expected to continue.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was confident there would not 
be a government shutdown. McConnell said a stopgap measure could be approved, 
though he suggested that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to 
become House speaker when the Democrats take control Jan. 3, would not want to 
saddle the new year with a budget brawl.

   "If I were in her shoes, I would rather not be dealing with this year's 
business next year," McConnell said.

   Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have made it clear they are 
not interested in funding Trump's border wall.

   During a meeting earlier Tuesday on Capitol Hill, McConnell had proposed 
$1.6 billion for border fencing, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill, plus 
an additional $1 billion that Trump could use on the border, according to a 
senior Democratic aide unauthorized to speak about the private meeting.

   Democratic leaders immediately spurned the proposal. Schumer called 
McConnell to reject it.

   "We cannot accept the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the 
president to implement his very wrong immigration policies," Pelosi told 
reporters. "So that won't happen."

   Democrats also rejected the administration's idea of shifting money from 
other accounts to pay for Trump's wall. Schumer said there will be no wall 
money, "plain and simple."

   Pelosi will probably be able to quickly approve a longer-term measure to 
keep government running in the new year. She called it a "good sign" that the 
White House appeared to be backing off its demands.

   The White House showed its willingness to budge as it became apparent the 
president does not have support in Congress for funding the wall at the $5 
billion level. Sanders said Tuesday there are "other ways" to secure the 
funding.

   "At the end of the day, we don't want to shut down the government," Sanders 
said on Fox News Channel. "We want to shut down the border from illegal 
immigration."

   Sanders pointed to the Senate's bipartisan appropriation measure for the 
Department of Homeland Security, which provides $26 billion, including $1.6 
billion for fencing and other barriers. It was approved by the committee in 
summer on a bipartisan vote.

   "That's something that we would be able to support," she said, as long as 
it's coupled with other funding.

   But House Democrats largely reject the Senate's bill because it includes 65 
miles of additional fencing along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

   Trump had campaigned on the promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. 
Mexico has refused.

   It's unclear how many House Republicans, with just a few weeks left in the 
majority before relinquishing power to House Democrats, will even show up 
midweek for possible votes. Many Republicans say it's up to Trump and Democrats 
to cut a deal.

   The standoff dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and 
dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, 
Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national 
parks and forests.

   Shelby expected the stopgap measure, which would cover the seven 
appropriation bills for those departments, would pass. "Who would want to shut 
the government down?" he said.

   Congress did pass legislation to fund much of the government through the 
fiscal year, until Oct. 1. But a partial shutdown would occur at midnight 
Friday on the remaining one-fourth of the government.

   About half the workers would be forced to continue working without immediate 
pay. Others would be sent home. Congress often approves their pay 
retroactively, even if they were ordered to stay home.

   Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans 
Affairs and Health and Human Services, are already funded for the year and will 
continue to operate as usual. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages 
for the holiday season, wouldn't be affected by any government shutdown because 
it's an independent agency.


(KA)

 
 
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