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Sen. Chuck Schumer accused President Donald Trump of trying to shut down parts of the federal government for political gains as Congress headed closer to its deadline to fund the government.
Lawmakers have to pass spending legislation by Dec. 7 or see funding lapse. Only parts of the government would shut down: lawmakers have already approved bills to fund five agencies, but still need to pass legislation to keep seven other departments running.
Trump's demand for $5 billion for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has derailed talks and raised the specter of a partial shutdown. On Thursday, Schumer, the Senate minority leader, put the onus on Trump to avoid letting funding lapse. The New York Democrat contended that "this is the president trying to manufacture a shutdown to fire up his base" over immigration policy.
"Make no mistake: The president is the only person who holds the ultimate responsibility for a government shutdown," Schumer said Thursday on the Senate floor.
Congress already funded some key agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services. It has not passed spending bills for others such as the Department of Homeland Security.
Schumer proposed two possible solutions. He said Trump could agree to sign a bipartisan DHS spending deal that would put $1.6 billion toward fencing and other border security measures rather than the physical wall the president wants. Trump could also approve a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded while negotiations continue, Schumer said.
Republicans currently hold 51 seats in the Senate and need 60 votes to pass a spending bill. Therefore, they need at least nine Democrats to come on board.
"It would be a shame if the country suffered because of a Trump temper tantrum. It's the president's choice," Schumer said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
The Senate Democrat's stance sets him apart from the leaders in the GOP-controlled House. On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said his chamber had the votes to pass the $5 billion in funding Trump seeks. He said "we hope the Senate comes with us."
Trump told Politico on Tuesday that he would "totally be willing" to shut down parts of the government over the border wall. He called immigration a "total winner" as a political issue.
But in an earlier Washington Post interview Tuesday, he took a softer stance, appearing to acknowledge that Senate Democrats may not approve $5 billion for the wall.
Many House Democrats are also unlikely to back a bill that includes border security funding.
The government has briefly shut down twice already this year. Disagreements over border security and legal protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children contributed to those lapses in funding.