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‘We Don’t Want to Shut Down the Government, We Want to Shut Down the Border’

Administration is called 'flexible' as Friday deadline looms

With the deadline to fund the government quickly approaching this Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the administration wants to avoid a shutdown — and that it may have found other ways to fund the border wall aside from President Donald’s Trump insistence on getting $5 billion from Congress for the wall.

There is now hope of passing a short-term stopgap spending measure to at least keep the government temporarily funded at current levels, as The Hill and other outlets reported Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said there may be a deal on the horizon.

And Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), also a member of that committee, told Martha MacCallum of Fox News “The Story” on Tuesday night that “now we’re beginning detailed negotiations about what more might be needed in order to get a border security investment that the president would accept and that would allow us to complete our appropriations work for this year.”

“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion,” said Sanders earlier Tuesday. “At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border from illegal immigration, from drugs coming into this country, and make sure we know who’s coming [into the country] and why they’re coming [here].”

President Donald Trump has fought to get $5 billion to fund a border wall as part of his promise to crack down on illegal immigration.

He had threatened to use his veto powers if spending bills didn’t include it. Democratic leaders refused to give him anything for the wall — which put the two sides on course towards a government shutdown.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — hoping for a deal to avert a government shutdown — met with Democratic leaders.

McConnell had hoped to work out a deal by inviting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to his office early Tuesday. The discussions failed when neither side could agree to a possible plan going forward.

“I invited the Democratic leader and Sen. Leahy over to my office this morning,” McConnell said at a press conference after the meeting on Capitol Hill.

“We had a discussion about a proposal that we offered that I thought was reasonable to both sides, [and that would] give us the opportunity to thread the needle on the border security issue.”

Related: Sen. Jim Inhofe Has a Plan to Fund Trump’s Border Wall

“I heard back from Sen. Schumer that the offer was not acceptable, so now I am in consultation with the White House about the way forward,” McConnell said.

He added that he hoped to “have more so say about that … a little bit later about what the president is willing to sign. I must say the administration has been extremely flexible on the issue and we obviously consulted with them before.”

Schumer has repeatedly said he is only willing to provide the $1.6 billion that was included in an earlier appropriations bill.

But those funds cannot go to the construction of a border wall.

The minority leader had to clarify the wall wasn’t included in the figure after facing backlash from the more progressive wings of his party.

Related: Trump Threatens Shutdown Over Border Wall as Meeting with Dem Leaders Unravels

“Well, we are not supporting what they proposed, which is a billion-dollar slush fund for the president to implement his immigration policies,” Pelosi told a group of reporters after the meeting. “What I said, what we put forward, what we brought to the White House before — the six bills plus a CR or seven bills under a CR.”

Trump promised to construct a security wall along the southern border as part of his overall pledge to crack down on illegal immigration. Pelosi and Schumer met with the president on December 11 to come up with a compromise, but that meeting quickly devolved into an argument.

Trump said he was willing to shut down the government in the name of border security.

Congress still has seven spending bills to pass to avoid a partial government shutdown deadline. Congress was able to fund most of the government by passing the two biggest minibus packages. The Senate and House had to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for two weeks to avoid a shutdown on December 7.

Lawmakers even faced an earlier deadline that they were able to extend before the government shut down on September 30. The second package of spending bills also included a continuing resolution that extended the original shutdown deadline.

Trump signed the package into law on September 28.

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Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].