- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2018

As lawmakers search for a way out of the latest shutdown showdown, the White House signaled Tuesday that President Trump could get behind legislation that allocates $1.6 billion for border security and that they are exploring other ways to secure the full $5 billion that Mr. Trump is seeking for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“We have other ways that we can get to that 5 billion,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News.

Mrs. Sanders pointed to a Senate funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that includes $1.6 billion for border security in 2019.

“That’s something that we would be able to support as long as we can couple that with other funding resources that would help us get to the 5 billion,” she said.

But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi swiftly rejected an apparent offer to set up what she described as a “slush fund” for the wall.

“We cannot accept the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the president to implement his very wrong immigration policies, so that won’t happen,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. “Right now, what they offered, we have not accepted.”

“I think that the White House has backed off the wall and that terminology, but what they might want to do with that billion dollars is problematic,” she said.

Congress has already passed — and Mr. Trump has signed — five out of the 12 annual funding bills for 2019, which cover roughly 75 percent of the federal government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget.

That means departments like Defense, Labor, and Health are fully funded through September 2019.

But lawmakers must act before a midnight Friday deadline or risk a partial shutdown of the outstanding departments, which cover spending on homeland security, science, commerce, and other government programs.

Lawmakers say they’re essentially done writing six of the remaining seven bills. But the homeland security bill, which includes the wall funding, is now holding up the entire process.

Democrats say they’ve offered Mr. Trump two options, both of which would provide $1.3 billion for border security next year — lower even than the Senate’s 2019 DHS funding bill.

Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats continue to support those two options.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government — we want to shut down the border from illegal immigration from drugs coming into this country and make sure we know who’s coming and why they’re coming,” Mrs. Sanders said.

Mrs. Sanders said the White House has been in constant communications with Capitol Hill leaders, including Tuesday morning.

“I think they know very clearly what we want to see, and we hope that they can get not just that done but also let’s get criminal justice reform done and then let’s get the government funded and let everybody have a very good Christmas and go home with something to celebrate,” she said.

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