The Senate Is Inching Closer to a Plan to Avoid a Shutdown

Posted December 20, 2018

"And now it's like, 'You know what, we're looking in other departments for the money'".

Evan Vucci/APPresident Donald Trump signs into law a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul package, Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

US Congress headed toward a short-term budget measure to keep the government open after US President Donald Trump appeared to back off his demand for US$5 billion (NZ$7.3 billion) for a US-Mexico border wall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor Wednesday that he would be introducing a short-term bill that would fund the government through February 8. Congress needs to agree on the measure by Friday at midnight, or parts of the government will shut down.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have made it clear they are not interested in funding Trump's border wall. The White House on Sunday, Dec. 16, pushed the federal government closer to the brink of a partial shutdown later this week, digging in on its demand for $5 billion to build a border wall as congressional Democrats stood firm against it.

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Despite the fact that a strong majority of Americans do not want a border wall, Trump is pushing for it - as he continues to rest his entire presidency on completing it.

Trump's anxiety about fulfilling his top campaign goal comes at the end of months of bitter debate inside the West Wing over how to fund the border wall between those seen as ideologues and those who consider themselves pragmatists.

During a meeting earlier on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) on Capitol Hill, McConnell had proposed US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.3 billion) for border fencing, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill, plus an additional US$1 billion (NZ$1.46 billion) that Trump could use on the border, according to a senior Democratic aide unauthorised to speak about the private meeting. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi signalled support.

The White House said on Tuesday it would search for already appropriated government funds to be redirected toward building the wall, since Congress was not cooperating with its request for the money.

She insisted that Trump was not "backing down" from his promise to secure the border despite backing away from a government shutdown, but would continue fighting for border security funds in the future.

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About one-quarter of the government would be affected, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks.

Democrats also rejected the administration's idea of shifting money from other accounts to pay for Trump's wall.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said Republicans remain hopeful they can come up with a proposal that can be acceptable to Trump and pass both chambers. Schumer said there will be no wall money, "plain and simple".

Republicans "should join us in one of these two proposals, which would get more than enough votes passed and avoid a shutdown", Schumer said.

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