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
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
"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
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.