Trump unwilling to compromise on deal for border security funding even as allies float potential solutions

In the midst of a government shutdown caused by a budget battle over border security funding, chances of a r...

Posted: Dec 31, 2018 12:48 PM
Updated: Dec 31, 2018 12:48 PM

In the midst of a government shutdown caused by a budget battle over border security funding, chances of a resolution remain slim as President Donald Trump is privately 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.

Democrats take over the House this week and have shown no signs of budging.

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Trump, who shelved plans to travel to Florida and remained in Washington over the Christmas holiday, has continued to dig in, even as lawmakers floated potential compromises Sunday. After a two-hour lunch with Trump, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters the President had not committed to a resolution but Graham was hopeful a compromise could be reached in the coming days.

"(The) President didn't commit but I think he's very open minded," the South Carolina legislator said after their lunch.

Graham proposed providing $5 billion for border security "in areas that make sense" in exchange for legislative changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and immigrants with temporary protected status. Graham said Trump called the idea "interesting."

It's unclear if Democrats have any interest in Graham's proposal, and none voiced support for it publicly Sunday.

But even as Trump signals willingness to hear ideas from his allies on Capitol Hill, officials and allies close to the President said it is still not clear what he would sign. 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." 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."

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has 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."

The White House made an offer to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer last Saturday night that included more than $1.3 billion but less than the $5 billion Trump initially wanted. A White House official said Schumer did not immediately reject the proposal of $2.5 billion, but during a call this week, Schumer informed the White House that Democrats do not expect to accept or counteroffer the White House's proposal, according to a second official. A Schumer spokesperson said Thursday that the White House and Democrats were "still very far apart," but the spokesperson said Schumer made it clear at the time of last Saturday's meeting that Democrats would not accept the offer.

As the President has continued to watch television coverage of the shutdown and phone allies in recent days, he has told them he will not give up his signature campaign promise. But there are now questions about whether or not he will follow through on his promise to supporters to build a concrete wall. During her appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Conway repeatedly referred to it as "border security" and not a wall. And 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."

Graham said he pitched Trump on a possible deal "that would include around $5 billion for border security slash wall slash fencing -- whatever you want to call it, in areas that make sense -- and deal with another problem that's looming."

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