WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the midst of a government shutdown caused by a budget battle over border security funding, President Donald Trump is telling officials and lawmakers he won’t sign a bill that comes to his desk with only $1.3 billion allotted for border security, according to sources involved in the negotiations.
A White House official said Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer did not immediately reject the offer the White House made last Saturday night, which included more than $1.3 billion but less than the $5 billion Trump initially wanted. But during a call this week, Schumer informed the White House that they do not expect to accept or counteroffer the White House’s proposal, a second official added. A Schumer spokesperson provided this readout of that meeting: “The Vice President came in for a discussion and made an offer. Unfortunately, we’re still very far apart.”
Asked on Sunday if the President will sign or veto a bill that Democrats pass, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that “it depends what’s in it,” but added that Trump is “ready to negotiate.”
“He wants to make a deal on border security. Where are they now? Nancy Pelosi is in Hawaii,” Conway said. “And negotiation by definition has to include both sides. He’s in the — he’s in the White House. He’s in Washington ready to negotiate.
“The President likes the $5.6 billion that was in the House package,” Conway said. “His incoming acting chief of staff and his vice president have offered less than that as a compromise. We have heard nothing in return.”
As far as the type of border security Trump is looking to get funded in a deal goes, Conway did not offer specifics but told Bash that “it’s anything — it’s all of the above.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly insisted that Mexico would fund the wall. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell said he will not bring a vote to the floor unless the President has endorsed it.
“We pushed the pause button,” McConnell said the day the government was scheduled to partially close, “until the President, from whom we will need a signature, and Senate Democrats, from whom we will need votes, reach an agreement.”
Trump, who has remained in Washington over the Christmas holiday after canceling a vacation to his private Florida club, is scheduled to have lunch with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday. Graham told Bash on the same program that he hoped to end the shutdown by offering Democrats incentives to get them to vote for wall funding.
“Democrats are not going to give us any money for a wall, border security, without getting something themselves,” Graham said.
Trump’s outgoing chief of staff John Kelly, who has been largely uninvolved in the shutdown negotiations, said in an interview published Sunday that the wall Trump is hammering Democrats over is not actually a concrete wall and hasn’t been since the early days of the administration.
“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the Los Angeles Times. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”