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Trump Weighs Next Move on Border Wall  12/15 10:34

   Congress is racing to avoid a partial government shutdown next Friday over 
President Donald Trump's border wall. But you wouldn't know it by the schedule, 
as lawmakers left town waiting for the White House's next move.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress is racing to avoid a partial government shutdown 
next Friday over President Donald Trump's border wall. But you wouldn't know it 
by the schedule, as lawmakers left town waiting for the White House's next move.

   The House is taking an extended five-day weekend, returning Wednesday night. 
The Senate returns Monday after a three-day absence.

   The ball is in Trump's court, both sides say, and the president met Friday 
with top aides to discuss his spending strategy. There's an expectation on 
Capitol Hill he'll reach out soon to offer lawmakers a plan.

   The president said this week he'd be "proud" to shut down the government 
over the $5 billion he wants for the wall on the southern border, but he has 
since taken a softer tone, tweeting, "Let's not do a shutdown, Democrats - do 
what's right for the American People!" But Trump doesn't have the votes from 
the Republican-controlled Congress to support funding for the wall at the level 
he wants.

   Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 
made a counter offer during a contentious meeting at the White House of no more 
than $1.6 billion, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. The money would not 
go for the wall but for fencing upgrades and other border security. Democrats 
also offered to simply keep funding at its current level, $1.3 billion.

   Without a resolution, parts of the federal government would shut down at 
midnight Dec. 21.

   Trump met on Friday with legislative affairs director Shahira Knight and 
budget director Mick Mulvaney to discuss strategy. Some White House aides were 
startled by Trump's embrace of a shutdown during his meeting with Democratic 
leaders, though others argued that it was another example of Trump sticking 
with his campaign promises.

   "The president made it very clear: He does want a border wall. He does want 
border security. He wants to protect the American people," White House 
spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters on Friday.

   While Trump has long rallied for the border wall with Mexico, a centerpiece 
of his 2016 campaign, Republicans on Capitol Hill never fully warmed to the 
plan, and they are less likely now to round up the votes for it after losing 
the House majority in the November election.

   Each passing day brings Democrats closer to taking control of the House, and 
with Christmas approaching, enthusiasm for a prolonged fight over the wall was 
waning even among some Republicans who support it.

   "We're out of time," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who lost a bid for 
re-election last month.

   Denham backs the wall as part of a broader immigration overhaul, but said 
Republicans would be better served by approving a short-term budget resolution 
that postpones the wall fight until January while keeping the government open.

   "Allow the next Congress to come in, get seated, committee chairs to get 
filled, and then actually have a full debate on a bipartisan solution," Denham 
told CNN Friday.

   Democrats, meanwhile, are not inclined to give an inch, as seen by the 
backing Pelosi received after confronting Trump during their televised meeting 
in the Oval Office. She's poised to become House speaker when the new Congress 
convenes Jan. 3.

   As of Friday, Trump had neither accepted nor rejected the Democrats' 
proposal, according to the Democrats. He told them he would take a look. Trump 
will need Democratic votes either way, now or in the new year, for passage.

   The mood on Capitol Hill has quickly shifted as newly elected members arrive 
to set up offices on Capitol Hill and dozens of Republicans head for the exits. 
Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan's pre-election prediction of a "big fight" 
over the wall has run up against the reality of the changed circumstances.

   Thursday was supposed to be the House's final day in session for the year, 
but lawmakers instead were told to return Wednesday night. Already Republican 
attendance during the lame-duck session has been spotty, and it's unclear how 
many votes Ryan will be able to garner in the final days of the GOP's majority 
in the House.

   Even if a bill with the wall funding passes the House, it is almost certain 
to fail in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority, and Democrats 
have pledged to block it from receiving the necessary 60 votes needed to 
advance.

   Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the incoming minority leader, said on the 
House floor as lawmakers left for the long weekend that he thinks "going into a 
shutdown is stupid," but he offered no immediate plan to resolve the standoff.

   Fellow California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the top Democrat on a 
subcommittee for homeland security spending, said it makes no sense to be 
"squandering" $5 billion on the wall when the nation has so many other security 
vulnerabilities.

   "Republicans are driving our nation to the brink of another disastrous 
government shutdown - at a time of great economic uncertainty and right in the 
middle of the holiday season," Roybal-Allard said in the Democrats' weekly 
address.

   For now, Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White 
House, she reminded listeners. "They have the responsibility and the power to 
keep our government open."

   If the two sides do not reach agreement, 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.


(KA)

 
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