Shutdown threat recedes as Trump softens stance on wall

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the assistant Democratic leader, is surrounded by reporters asking about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump appeared Tuesday 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 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 Christmas.

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 such a short-term package, 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.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, arrives to speak to reporters about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

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.

He 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.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress in January, talks to reporters after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

“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.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the assistant Democratic leader, talk to reporters about the possibility of a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St George News

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 funding.

“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 immigration.”

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.


Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Redbud December 18, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    If we don’t fund the border wall, that’s fine because the liberals (and everyone else) will pay $5 billion in taxes so we can pay to house, feed, and give health care to the illegal immigrants. They will make everyone suffer.

    • tcrider December 18, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Follow the promise, whos gona pay for the wall??
      the pospotus said mexico was gona pay for it,
      maybe you could do bnb for new migrants moving here
      and pay your taxes that way.

      • Redbud December 18, 2018 at 9:28 pm

        To explain further, the liberals won’t fund or agree to a border wall, so how can Mexico pay for a wall if they won’t allow it to be built in the first place? Let’s just let all the illegals in, pay for their health care, food, housing, and education. All of this will end up costing far more than the $5 billion price tag of the wall, but at least the libbys will have gotten their way, and will have shown their version of making America great again by letting all the illegals in! Ain’t it great?

        • tcrider December 18, 2018 at 10:10 pm

          I figure, the migrants will use some really cheap Chinese rope to get over the 5 billion
          dollar wall and the rope will break coming down on the u.s. side and then will need some
          healthcare before they can be sent home. So if we don’t have a wall they can just come
          over and see some of southern utahs finest, and then they will change their mind and go back

    • iceplant December 18, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Redbud not more than 24 hours ago: “BUILD THAT WALL!! BUILD THAT WALL!!!”
      Redbud now: “If we don’t fund the border wall, that’s fine…”

      So much conflict within you. Accept the truth or wallow in your anger to your grave.

      • Redbud December 18, 2018 at 10:40 pm

        Iceplant, I’m sorry that you don’t get the concept of sarcasm. All libbys are confused, but you’re extra special! It’s ok I won’t attempt to explain it to you.

        • iceplant December 19, 2018 at 10:39 am

          Pretty sad how, when you’re cornered, you start back-tracking and claiming you’re being sarcastic.
          Nothing wrong with my sarcasm meter. You’re just not very good at sarcasm.

          • Redbud December 19, 2018 at 6:52 pm

            Like I said, you just don’t get it, so I won’t attempt to explain it to you. You lose.

          • iceplant December 20, 2018 at 2:59 am

            I’ve lost nothing. There’s nothing to lose with you.

  • utahdiablo December 18, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    We’re already getting screwed by Illegal aliens coming here to the USA…the list of The states paying the most to care for illegals in Billions per year before any Federal monies:

    1. California – $23,038,125,353

    2. Texas – $10,994,614,550

    3. New York – $7,489,141,357

    4. Florida – $6,290,429,108

    5. New Jersey – $4,466,838,574

    6. Illinois – $3,220,767,517

    7. Georgia – $2,487,719,503

    8. North Carolina – $2,437,965,113

    9. Maryland – $2,378,996,947

    10. Arizona – $2,314,131,964

  • iceplant December 18, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    This is so hysterical. Typical Doatrd theatrics. Act like a tantrum-throwing child on national television and make a scene. Then, when he realizes he ain’t gonna get CRAP for a wall, backs off with his tail between his legs. President Facepalm.


    • Jacqwayne December 19, 2018 at 6:58 am

      Could someone give me a good reason to not oppose illegal immigration?

      • iceplant December 19, 2018 at 10:44 am

        I’ll give you a good reason. The very food you eat. Especially if it’s fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of illegal immigrants who are trying to become legal that work in the fields where the food we all eat is grown. Some of them are legal. But I can assure you that not all of them are. And they’re willing to work 100x harder than most Americans who refuse to do the work they do. Without immigrants, legal or illegal, much of the fruit/vegetable picking jobs would go unfilled and the industry would crumble.

        • Redbud December 19, 2018 at 6:57 pm

          Wow, this just goes to show how ignorant iceplant is. There are other countries that grow fruits and vegetables just fine without illegal immigrants. Do you really think the US would go entirely without fruits and vegetables without illegals? Yes I get it that they are hard workers, and yes they’re willing to do it, but the fact remains we would find a way to get our fruits and vegetables with or without them. What a lame excuse!

          • iceplant December 20, 2018 at 3:03 am

            Ignorant. Riiiight. 😛
            You don’t know me, where I come from, where I’ve been or what I’ve seen.
            I’ve been in the very fields these people work in. I’ve been lucky enough to know their stories.
            You, on the other hand, sit there in your computer chair acting like you have a clue. Sad.

  • iceplant December 20, 2018 at 3:19 am


    Oops. Looks like the wall is dead. 😀

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