Trump and Congress barrel toward a Christmastime government shutdown over border wall

Key Points
  • Parts of the U.S. government will shut down after Friday if Congress cannot reach a deal on government funding.
  • President Donald Trump's demand for $5 billion for his proposed border wall, and Democrats' refusal to meet it, has stalled progress toward dodging a shutdown.
  • But on Tuesday morning White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that the administration could support "$1.6 billion for the wall ... as long as we can couple that with other funding resources to get to the $5 billion."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Trump has not responded to two Democratic proposals to keep the government running.
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Congress have until Friday at midnight to dodge a partial government shutdown. But the president and lawmakers appear no closer to breaking an impasse over funding Trump's proposed border wall.

A week has passed since Trump said he would be "proud" to close parts of the government during an Oval Office fracas with Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The Democrats say Trump has not responded to their two proposals to keep the seven unfunded U.S. agencies running.

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As of Monday night, even Senate Republican leaders did not know the president's plan. They appeared to wait for a signal from Trump — who laid out his case for a wall in a Monday tweet, but did not speak during the day about efforts to strike a deal.

"If there's a plan, I think at the moment it's the president and the Democrats trying to figure out what they can agree upon," said Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and the third ranking GOP senator, according to Politico. He added that "this is going to have to build for a few days here before there's a solution out there."

But on Tuesday morning White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that the administration could support "$1.6 billion for the wall ... as long as we can couple that with other funding resources to get to the $5 billion."

She added, "at the end of the day we don't want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border."

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Trump has already signed bills into law to fund five government departments, including the sprawling departments of Defense and Health and Human Services. Lawmakers need to fund another seven agencies before the end of Friday. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security, and Trump's wall, have blocked the path to a deal.

The immigration dispute raises the specter of the third partial shutdown this year. While damage will be limited because only about a quarter of the government is unfunded, this closure would come only a few days before Christmas and likely last until after Democrats take a House majority in the new Congress on Jan. 3. The impasse casts doubts on Washington's ability to function in the new Congress, where Republicans will hold the Senate and White House and Democrats will control the House.

Trump wants Congress to pass $5 billion for the wall, even though he previously insisted Mexico would fund it. Pelosi and Schumer have flatly denied the president's request. They call the proposed barrier inhumane and ineffective.

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Instead, they floated two different plans to Trump last week. One includes appropriations bills for six agencies and a yearlong continuing resolution to fund DHS. The other would pass a continuing resolution to keep all seven departments running.

"President Trump should support one of these options. ... Unfortunately, since our meeting last Tuesday, Leader Pelosi and I have still not heard from the White House whether they will accept either of these two options. Nor have we heard from our Republican colleagues in the Senate or House," Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Monday. He contended "no threat or temper tantrum will get the president his wall."

Schumer tweet

Schumer reiterated on Tuesday that Democrats have not heard from Trump.

Nine Senate Democrats need to get on board with a spending plan to reach the 60 votes needed to pass a bill. Schumer has said Senate Democrats would authorize $1.6 billion for border security, but not the wall as Trump has proposed. On Monday, Trump claimed politicians who say "you can have good Border Security without a Wall" are just "following the party line."

Trump tweet

With their current majority, Republicans can pass a spending measure in the House without Democratic votes. Many House Democrats would likely oppose even the $1.6 billion for border security floated by Schumer. The House will not go back into session until Wednesday, which gives lawmakers even less time to keep the government running.

Trump may not provide the clarity that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers seek before then. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to comment on whether the president will give any more details Tuesday on what he would accept in a spending bill.

For now, Congress appears to have little idea what the president desires as the shutdown deadline draws closer. it's not even clear if lawmakers will vote on any package at this point.

"Senate Republican leadership has no idea what President Trump wants. Neither does House Republican leadership," Schumer said Monday.

A government shutdown this weekend would affect fewer people than it typically would. Along with Homeland Security, the unfunded agencies are the departments of Transportation, Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and Justice.

While some functions like national parks would close down, some employees and law enforcement officers at those agencies would continue working without getting paid temporarily. Those would include employees such as FBI, border patrol and Transportation Security Administration agents.

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