The Trump administration signaled Tuesday that it's open to negotiating down the price of the border wall, even though President Donald Trump himself made clear last week that he would veto any congressional budget plan that allocated less than $5 billion to his signature immigration reform effort.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the change Tuesday morning, CNBC reports, but cautioned lawmakers that they must be willing to find $5 billion for the border wall somewhere, even if the budget bill, which must pass by the end of December, only funds the wall to the tune of $1.6 billion.
“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion that we’ll work with Congress,” Huckabee Sanders told Fox News in an interview. "At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border.”
In a meeting with Democratic leadership last week, Trump was adamant about border wall funding, telling House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he would take full responsibility for a government shut down if it meant pressing the border wall funding issue.
Although Schumer had previously agreed to $1.6 billion and seemed willing to negotiate with the president, Pelosi, who takes the reins of a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in January, seemed less flexible. On Tuesday morning, Pelosi reiterated that she felt the border wall was "immoral," and that it was imperative that Democrats refuse to fund the project out of concern for immigrants (and out of any concern for taxpayers, of course).
PELOSI not budging. Just told a small group of reporters: "The wall is not about money. The wall is about morality. It’s the wrong thing to do. It doesn’t work. Its not effective. It’s the wrong thing to do and it’s a waste of money."— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) December 18, 2018
Instead, the Democrats say they've offered the White House two options to avoid a shutdown: a congressional budget resolution that fully funds six departments, paired with a "continuing resolution" that temporarily funds the Department of Homeland Security into 2019, when negotiations between Congress and the White House could continue; and a spending bill that funds all seven agencies needing a 2019 budget.
The White House responded by adding a $1 billion "slush fund" for "immigration projects" (including, by implication, the border wall) into the DHS continuing resolution — a deal that made Democrats balk.
The two sides must come to some sort of budget deal by Friday or around a quarter of the government will shut down (CNBC reports that the affected agencies are "Homeland Security, [and] the departments of Transportation, Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and Justice").
Government workers will still report for duty, however, but will be paid when a budget is finally approved.