Democratic leaders plan to offer President Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border fence when they meet Tuesday at the White House, a bid that falls far short of the $5 billion Trump is demanding to fund a border wall.
Democrats, Republicans and the White House have until Dec. 21 to reach a budget deal if they are to avert a partial government shutdown, but talks are deadlocked over funding for the wall.
As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) prepare for the Tuesday morning, Democrats and Trump are, if anything, moving further apart.
Schumer had previously suggested Trump accept $1.6 billion in border funding, the funding level included in a Senate bill with bipartisan support. But that $1.6 billion would struggle to pass the House, where Democrats won’t support it because they say it’s too much and Republicans because it’s not enough.
The $1.3 billion would extend current funding levels contained in the spending bill for the Homeland Security Department — which Democrats want to maintain at existing levels if no new deal can be reached.
If no deal is reached by the end of next week, funding will run out for the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies. Those agencies, making up about 25 percent of the federal government, are operating on a short-term spending bill Congress passed last week to move the shutdown deadline.
Tuesday’s late-morning meeting will be the first gathering of Trump, Schumer and Pelosi ahead of the shutdown deadline. In recent weeks the two sides have increasingly dug in, and it’s not clear where compromise might lie.
With Republicans about to lose their majority in the House, the president and his GOP allies are determined to make one last attempt to get money for the wall Trump promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump claimed during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall but now wants U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill instead.
In a joint statement issued Monday evening, Pelosi and Schumer said the country cannot afford “a Trump Shutdown” at this time. The president, the statement said, “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate, and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”
At a Kansas City, Mo., event Friday, Trump accused Democrats of playing “political games” and said he thought it was a political disadvantage for Democrats to fight funding for the wall.
“The number is $5 billion. If there is a better way to get there than what the president has laid out, then they need to come with an alternative,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Monday on Fox News. “They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security.”
Democrats have said repeatedly that if there is a partial government shutdown resulting from a funding lapse, Trump will be the one to blame. Pelosi last week called the wall “immoral” and insisted Democrats will not fund it.
Some 70 percent of the federal government — including the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services — has already been funded through next September.
Under the plan Democrats are offering Trump, funding for the Homeland Security Department would remain largely flat through 2019. Funding for the other agencies at risk of a shutdown, such as the Department of Justice and Interior Department, could be substantially increased.
If no deal is reached, the consequences of a shutdown would be widespread. In addition to Homeland Security, other agencies affected include the Interior and Agriculture departments, the Justice Department, NASA, the Commerce Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Transportation Department, as well as many smaller ones. These agencies employ about 600,000 federal workers.
Pelosi and Schumer have a mixed record meeting with Trump. In September 2017, the pair emerged from a meeting with Trump to announce a big-spending budget deal that blindsided Republicans. But not long after, Pelosi and Schumer emerged from a Chinese-food dinner with Trump to announce an immigration deal that quickly fell apart.
The last time Pelosi and Schumer met with Trump was a year ago, with GOP congressional leaders present.