Congress is ready to pass a bill to avoid a shutdown — but Trump hasn't said whether he'll sign it

Key Points
  • The Senate will introduce a bill to keep the government running into February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says. 
  • Lawmakers need to pass spending measures by midnight Friday to avoid a shutdown. 
  • President Donald Trump's demand for border wall money threatened a lapse in funding. 
Senator Mitch McConnell introduces bill to avoid government shutdown

Congressional leaders got behind a short-term measure to fund the government Wednesday as an impasse over President Donald Trump's border wall threatens a partial government shutdown.

Still, the president gave no indication whether he would sign it as a funding deadline loomed. 

The so-called continuing resolution would fund the government through Feb. 8, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced. The Senate will take up the measure later Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican said. Lawmakers need to pass spending bills by midnight Friday to avoid a partial shutdown. The plan would push the ongoing debate over immigration and border security into next year, when Democrats will hold control of the House and Nancy Pelosi will likely be speaker.

"We need the government to remain open for the American people," McConnell said on the Senate floor. He contended that Democrats have not taken border security seriously enough, saying they had an "allergy to sensible immigration policies."

Senate Democrats will back it, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.

"We would have preferred one of our two options, but I'm glad the leader thinks the government should not shut down over the president's demand for a wall, and Democrats will support this CR," the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor. Democratic leaders offered two separate proposals to fund the government for a longer period, but Trump has not accepted them.

In a statement, Pelosi lamented a "missed opportunity to pass full-year funding bills." However, she said Democrats "will support this continuing resolution." Senate Republicans need nine Democratic votes to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass spending bills. House Republicans do not need Democratic support to approve the legislation.

A senior administration official told CNBC on Wednesday that the White House would "take a look" once Congress passes a plan. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would want to see what Congress passes before he decides whether to sign it. Last week, Trump said he would be "proud" to shut down the government over the border wall.

Tech from self-driving cars could solve border security without Trump's wall

The short-term bill would mean Trump would fall short once again in his ongoing effort to secure money for the wall, one of his key campaign promises. He pledged to get Mexico to fund the barrier, which America's southern neighbor has repeatedly refused to do. Trump sees stoking fear of illegal immigration as one of his core political appeals.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump seemed to justify his potential shortcoming in getting wall funding from Congress. He claimed "Mexico is paying (indirectly)" for the structure through his revision to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a dubious assertion that the White House has struggled to explain. He also contended that the U.S. military will construct the wall — a process that could also require congressional appropriations.

Trump tweet

"Thankfully, President Trump appears to have backed down from his position for billions in direct appropriations for a border wall," Schumer said. "For the past several weeks, the president's insistence on $5 billion for a wall has been the biggest obstacle to keeping the government open past Friday."

Trump has also explained his potential failure by claiming the government has already started to build large portions of the border wall. However, Congress only approved money to construct or replace fencing similar to existing structures.

If funding for parts of the government lapses, it would be the third shutdown this year. Impasses over immigration contributed to the two government closures early in the year.

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