White House: Trump would accept less money for border wall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Both sides in the long-running fight over funding President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall appear to have moved toward each other, but a shutdown of one-fourth of the federal government entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight.

In fact, a top White House official warned the shutdown could stretch into January.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who is also the budget director, said he was waiting to hear from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York about a counteroffer the White House presented Schumer over the weekend.

Mulvaney would only say the offer was between Trump's $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats have offered.

"We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3," Mulvaney said less than a day after a senior administration official insisted that Congress would have to cave into Trump's demand for the shutdown to end, highlighting Trump's unpredictable negotiating style.

Schumer's office said the parties remained "very far apart."

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Migrants in Tijuana trickling over and under the border wall
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Migrants in Tijuana trickling over and under the border wall
Honduran migrant Joel Mendez, 22, passes his eight-month-old son Daniel through a hole under the U.S. border wall to his partner, Yesenia Martinez, 24, who had already crossed in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Moments later Martinez surrendered to waiting border guards while Mendez stayed behind in Tijuana to work, saying he feared he'd be deported if he crossed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Central American migrants planning to surrender to U.S. border patrol agents climb over the U.S. border wall from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, late Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Thousands of migrants are living in crowded tent cities in the Mexican city of Tijuana after undertaking a grueling, weeks-long journey to the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In a photo taken from Playas of Tijuana, Mexico, Honduran migrants climb over a section of the U.S. border fence before handing themselves in to border control agents, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. A steady trickle of Central American migrants have been finding ways to climb over, tunnel under or slip through the U.S. border wall to plant their feet on U.S. soil and ask for asylum. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran migrants who jumped the border wall to the U.S. side, help other members of their families to jump the wall, in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Thousands of migrants who traveled via caravan are seeking asylum in the United States, but face a decision between waiting months or crossing illegally, because the U.S. government only processes a limited number of cases a day at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Honduran migrant Joel Mendez, 22, feeds his eight-month-old son Daniel as his partner Yesenia Martinez, 24, crawls through a hole under the U.S. border wall, in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Moments later Martinez surrendered to waiting border guards while Mendez stayed behind in Tijuana to work, saying he feared he'd be deported if he crossed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Yesenia Martinez, 24, carries her eight-month-old son Daniel as she looks for a place to cross the U.S. border wall to surrender to border patrol and request asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Martinez surrendered to waiting border guards while her partner Joel Mendez stayed behind in Tijuana to work, saying he feared he'd be deported if he crossed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A woman climbs the U.S. border wall, planning to surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents and apply for asylum, as she crosses from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Often within minutes, border guards quickly arrive to escort migrants to detention centers and begin "credible fear" interviews. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A woman holding a baby peers through the U.S. border fence as she tries to reach a point where scores of migrants have been crossing in recent days, now blocked by private security, in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. Legal groups argue that federal law states that immigrants can apply for asylum no matter how they enter U.S. territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran migrant Leivi Ortega, 22, wearing a rosary, looks at her phone while she, her partner and their young daughter, wait in hopes of finding an opportunity to cross the U.S. border from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. In early December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the San Diego sector experienced a "slight uptick" in families entering the U.S. illegally with the goal of seeking asylum. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Yesenia Martinez, 24, reaches back from the San Diego, California side of the U.S. border wall to get her baby's bottle, after crossing underneath from Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Martinez is among a wave of Central Americans getting past the imposing barrier between Mexico and California and expediting their asylum claims by readily handing themselves over to U.S. agents. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
A Honduran migrant helps a young girl cross to the American side of the border wall, in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. In November, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation suspending asylum rights for people who try to cross into the U.S. illegally from Mexico, although a divided U.S. appeals court has refused to immediately allow the Trump administration to enforce the ban. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Salvadoran migrant Cesar Jobet, right, and Daniel Jeremias Cruz hide from U.S. border agents after they dug a hole in the sand under the border wall and crossed over to the U.S. side, in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. When the two youths were detected by agents they ran back to the Mexican side. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A Honduran migrant walks with his son in his arms after jumping the U.S. border wall with plans to turn himself over to U.S. border patrol agents in order to apply for asylum, seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. In twos or threes, or sometimes by the dozen, migrants arrive at the U.S. border wall and manage to cross over. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A Honduran migrant walks with his son in his arms after jumping the wall to the U.S that separates Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Aid workers and humanitarian organizations expressed concerns Thursday about the unsanitary conditions at the sports complex in Tijuana where more than 6,000 Central American migrants are packed into a space adequate for half that many people and where lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A Honduran migrant walks with his son in his arms after jumping the wall to the U.S that separates Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Aid workers and humanitarian organizations expressed concerns Thursday about the unsanitary conditions at the sports complex in Tijuana where more than 6,000 Central American migrants are packed into a space adequate for half that many people and where lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A Honduran migrant walks after jumping the wall to the U.S that separates Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Aid workers and humanitarian organizations expressed concerns Thursday about the unsanitary conditions at the sports complex in Tijuana where more than 6,000 Central American migrants are packed into a space adequate for half that many people and where lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
In a photo taken from the Tijuana, Mexico, side of the border wall, a guard on the U.S. side, at left, watches Honduran migrants jump the wall into the United States, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Thousands of migrants who traveled via caravan are seeking asylum in the U.S., but face a decision between waiting months or crossing illegally, because the U.S. government only processes a limited number of cases a day at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
In a photo taken from the Tijuana, Mexico, side of the border, two immigrants on U.S. soil try to jump the second wall before border police arrived and arrested them, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Thousands of migrants who traveled via caravan are seeking asylum in the U.S., but face a decision between waiting months or crossing illegally, because the U.S. government only processes a limited number of cases a day at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
In a photo taken from the Tijuana, Mexico, side of the border wall, a U.S. Border Patrol agent is seen as Honduran migrants who jumped the wall surrender on the U.S. side, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Thousands of migrants who traveled via caravan are seeking asylum in the U.S., but face a decision between waiting months or crossing illegally, because the U.S. government only processes a limited number of cases a day at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued for increased use of technology along the border instead of "some medieval wall." Asked whether he's willing to offer more money as long as it is not spent on a wall, Durbin responded: "Absolutely."

A stalemate over the wall led parts of the government to shut down Saturday after funding for numerous departments and agencies expired. The closure affects hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country and was expected to last at least through Thursday, when the House and Senate meet again.

Monday and Tuesday, Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively, are federal holidays, meaning the government would have been closed anyway. That means Wednesday is the first day the public could begin to feel the effects of lost government services, Mulvaney said.

He predicted the shutdown could go into January, when Democrats assume control of the House based on their midterm election gains.

"It's very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress," Mulvaney said.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, countered: "If Director Mulvaney says the Trump Shutdown will last into the New Year, believe him, because it's their shutdown." Trump recently declared he'd be "proud" to shut down the government over border issues.

Democrats held firm Sunday in opposition to a wall, which Trump promised his political base he would build. Mulvaney said "the president's not going to not accept money for a border wall."

Trump tweeted Sunday, the shutdown's second day, that what's needed is "a good old fashioned WALL that works," not aerial drones or other measures that "are wonderful and lots of fun" but not the answer to address drugs, gangs, human trafficking and other criminal elements entering the country.

He put off plans to spend Christmas at his Florida estate and remained in Washington.

The routines of about 800,000 federal employees, meanwhile, were about to be disrupted.

More than half of those employees are deemed essential, such as U.S. Secret Service agents and Transportation Security Administration airport agents, must work without pay, though retroactive pay is expected. Another 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will not report to work but would be paid later. Legislation ensuring that workers receive back pay was expected to clear Congress.

Trump had savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall, saying he'd be "proud" to force one over an issue that was one of his biggest campaign promises. He had said he wouldn't blame Democrats for a shutdown but now blames them for not contributing to the 60 votes needed for such legislation to clear the closely divided Senate.

But Democrats aren't the only ones resisting Trump on the wall. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is leaving Congress in January and has criticized Trump on other issues in the past, called the border-wall fight a "made-up fight so the president can look like he's fighting."

"This is something that is unnecessary. It's a spectacle. And, candidly, it's juvenile. The whole thing is juvenile," Corker said, arguing for measures that he said would secure the border better than a wall.

Democrats said they were open to proposals that don't include a wall, which Schumer said is costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.

Senators have approved a bipartisan deal to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for "caving" on a campaign promise, he pushed the House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall. That bill lacks the votes to pass the Senate.

The stalemate blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

The Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services are among those that Congress has fully funded and will operate as usual.

Mulvaney appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week." Durbin spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press" and Corker was interviewed on "State of the Union" on CNN.

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