With a little over three days to go before a partial government shutdown, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested the Trump administration is willing to compromise.
President Donald Trump has demanded that a spending package to keep the federal government fully funded after Friday include $5 billion for construction of his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. "I am proud to shut down the government for border security," he said last week during a televised Oval Office meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), who generally oppose the wall funding.
But today, Sanders appeared to reverse course. "We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion," she said on Fox News. "We will work with Congress if they will make sure we get a bill passed that provides not just the funding for the wall, but there's a piece of legislation that's been pushed around…that provides roughly $26 billion for border security including $1.6 billion for the wall," she said.
As Politico notes, Sanders was likely referring to a compromise bill pushed for by Senate Democrats but rejected by Republicans who wanted the full $5 billion. Democrats no longer support that deal, instead proposing $1.3 billion. However, it's conceivable they could reconsider.
"That's something that we would be able to support as a long as we can couple that with other funding resources," Sanders said regarding $1.6 billion in wall funding. "At the end of the day, we don't want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border."
Of course, it's not exactly clear what those "other funding sources" would be. A person briefed on talks between congressional Republicans and the White House suggested to The Washington Post that reallocating money that's already been approved could be one option. According to Politico, the money could come from the Pentagon's budget.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) met with Schumer today and proposed setting aside $1.6 billion for non-wall-related border security, in addition to $1 billion that Trump could spend however he likes on immigration. However, congressional Democrats have said they won't support that plan.
Clearly, things are still up in the air when it comes to a spending package that would keep the government fully funded. Different numbers are being thrown around as both parties in Congress and Trump try to come to an agreement. What does seem clear, however, is that the Trump administration wants to avoid a shutdown.
This is significant, especially in light of Trump's previous declaration that he would be "proud" to let a shutdown happen. As recently as Sunday, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was saying publicly that his boss would "absolutely" shut down the government over border wall funding.
The fact that negotiations are happening at all is a sign that Trump is folding. His previous position was that any sort of deal would have to include $5 billion in border funding. Now he appears to be backing off, with Sanders talking very generally about "other funding sources."
This is a positive development. As I wrote on Friday, both building Trump's border wall and shutting down the government are bad ideas. Ideally, Trump would give in completely, thus stopping a shutdown and preventing money from going to the border wall. In the end, Trump may get some money for the wall, but it probably won't be $5 billion. And as long as a deal can be reached before midnight on Friday, the shutdown will be a crisis averted.
This post has been updated to note that congressional Democrats have rejected a plan that would set aside $1 billion for Trump to spend however he likes on immigration.