The Trump administration appeared to pull back from the shutdown brink Tuesday, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying the administration won’t demand $5 billion for border wall construction as part of a federal spending package this week.
“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion,” Sanders said on Fox News. “At the end of the day we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border.”
Sanders added that there are “a number of different funding sources that we’ve identified that we can use that we can couple with the money that would be given through congressional appropriations that would help us get to that $5 billion that the president needs in order to protect our borders.”
As Axios’s Stef Kight noted, “This is a much softer stance than President Trump's statement last week when he claimed he was ‘proud to shut down the government’ over the border wall.”
But they still need to make a deal: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday called on Congress to pass an earlier compromise bill that provided $1.6 billion for border security as part of a larger funding package that would avert a shutdown. As part of the deal, Congress would repurpose $1 billion in unspent funds for Trump to use on border security.
Democrats aren’t feeling it: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) dismissed the idea that Congress would provide a “slush fund” for the Trump administration to use as it sees fit for immigration enforcement. “We cannot accept the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the President to implement his very wrong immigration policies,” Pelosi said as she left a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
So it’s still up in the air: Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reports that GOP senators are still wary since “they know how quickly and sharply the White House's positions can change.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the situation is still in flux and that lawmakers may not know more until later in the week. Nevertheless, McConnell stuck with his optimistic assessment that there won’t be a shutdown this week, saying that the White House was now “flexible” on its demands as both sides look for a way out of the confrontation.