$5 billion for his border wall? Trump eases shutdown threat

AFP , Tuesday 18 Dec 2018

Donald Trump
In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington (Photo: AP)

Donald Trump has stood firm for days: no spending deal to keep government operating if Congress does not approve $5 billion to build a US-Mexico border wall. On Tuesday he softened his position.

"We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News, while remaining evasive about how that would be achieved.

"At the end of the day we don't want to shut down the government."

It could still happen. If Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress, coupled with the White House, fail to reach agreement on a spending package by midnight Friday, parts of the government will be forced into a shutdown.

That would leave some federal operations paralyzed during the year-end holiday season.

The exact impact is difficult to foretell. About 75 percent of government is already funded through the fiscal year which ends in September 2019.

But a quarter of government operations still require spending agreements and could face disruptions, including the departments of justice and homeland security, and parts of the State Department.

Tens of thousands of federal workers could be placed on unpaid leave.

Republicans presently control Congress. But a deal can only advance in the 100-member Senate with 60 votes. Republicans hold 51 seats, meaning Democratic support is vital.

Control of the House of Representatives shifts to Democrats on January 3, when the chamber's new majority will be disinclined to give in to the president's demands.

During a contentious Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders last week, Trump said he would be "proud" to trigger a shutdown over border security.

Some Republican lawmakers have said they are unaware of a White House plan to fund the government, or what deal Trump might be willing to sign on to.

Sanders said the White House has been "in constant contact" with lawmakers and aides about a path forward.

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