The partial government shutdown entered its 12th day Wednesday, as bipartisan congressional leaders headed to the White House for a briefing on President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.
Nine federal departments remain unfunded and hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missing paychecks amid an impasse over funding for the barrier. Democrats have pledged to pass spending legislation without wall money when they take control of the House on Thursday. But Trump has already promised to oppose the measure, leaving Congress and the White House still far from a solution.
Eight lawmakers attended the White House briefing on border security at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The group includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who will likely become speaker Thursday, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. In the lead-up to the shutdown last month, the Democratic leaders got into a televised Oval Office spat with the president over the wall.
The briefing comes as neither side has shown willingness to cave on the president's demand for $5 billion in taxpayer money for the project. Trump has insisted on funding for the barrier, a core campaign promise that excited supporters at political rallies when he promised Mexico would pay for it. Democrats have flatly opposed the funding, calling a wall both inhumane and ineffective.
Trump's own messaging muddied his push for a wall as talks stalled over the holidays. The president has not made it clear what exactly he wants — calling at various times for a concrete barrier, fencing or a structure made of steel slats.
Some Democrats have worried about the White House using the briefing as a political ploy rather than a piece of an effort to reach a deal to end the shutdown. Asked Wednesday as he entered Pelosi's office if he thought the event was a stunt, Schumer said "I hope he's serious, but I'm worried that it's another one of his events for show," according to NBC News.
Leaving Pelosi's office later, Schumer said he and the California Democrat are "always" on the same page. The Democrats "hope" the shutdown will end soon, but "it's up to President Trump," he added.
A tweet Wednesday morning also raised questions about why Trump still demands taxpayer money for the wall. He claimed "Mexico is paying for the wall" through a replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Trump administration has struggled to explain that assertion, and Congress still needs to approve the deal for it to take effect.
He also claimed "much of the wall has already been fully renovated or built." Congress has not passed funding for the wall as Trump proposed, but has put money toward replacing existing fencing or building new fences on the border.
It is unclear what proposal would make Republicans and Democrats compromise. Trump, who last month said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security," sees the wall as a winning political issue.
The plan Democrats hope to pass Thursday would fund the closed departments and agencies through Sept. 30. It would reopen the Department of Homeland Security, which receives border security funding, only through Feb. 8.
That would give Congress more time to break the stalemate over the wall while minimizing the shutdown's effects. But it would also delay, rather than end, the political fight over funding.
Before Trump threatened to veto it last month, the GOP-controlled Senate passed a similar measure to fund the government. The Republican House majority then approved a plan with more than $5 billion for the wall, which led to the shutdown.
"We are giving the Republicans the opportunity to take yes for an answer," Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats on Tuesday. "Senate Republicans have already supported this legislation, and if they reject it now, they will be fully complicit in chaos and destruction of the President's third shutdown of his term."
But Trump's opposition to it jeopardizes its passage in the Senate. In a statement late Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Pelosi's plan "will not re-open the government because it fails to secure the border."
Republicans will hold 53 seats in the chamber on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office has said the Senate will not pass a plan that Trump refuses to sign.
It is unclear whether the briefing Wednesday will bring any progress toward a deal, or if the White House will simply use it to try to strengthen its negotiating position. During a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said administration officials would make the case for a wall.
He added that he would keep the government shut down for "as long as it takes." Trump said he would not accept the $2.5 billion in border security funding that his administration previously offered to Democrats. The president wants more than $5 billion in funding.
In a tweet Tuesday, Trump chided Pelosi, saying a shutdown "is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker!"
"Let's make a deal?" he wrote.
Pelosi responded by saying Trump has "given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible Trump Shutdown."
Aside from Pelosi, Schumer and McConnell, the White House also invited congressional leaders Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., along with Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and John Thune, R-S.D.