- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2018

President Trump has offered to come down from his $5 billion border wall demand, the White House said Sunday, signaling he would sign a bill that includes less money and puts limits on the type of fencing that can be constructed.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said they made an offer to Democrats between the $1.3 billion included in last year’s spending and the $5 billion Mr. Trump has demanded this year. He said they will agree that the money must be spent on a “steel slatted fence,” which would rule out any of the concrete prototypes that the president tested last year.

“We moved off of the 5, we hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The willingness to accept less money may not be as important as the president’s signal that he will accept “fencing” instead of a “wall.” During the campaign and the early days of his administration, he chided those who equated the two and said only a wall would work.

Despite the movement, there was a sense in Washington that the partial government shutdown that began Saturday morning could extend for some time — though it was not clear how much it would be felt.



Most of the government will remain open because Congress funded the Defense, Veterans Affairs and some other departments in September. Of the departments and agencies that lost money, 420,000 employees are required to show up as essential workers, leaving 380,000, or about 18 percent of the total workforce, on furlough.

With the shutdown hitting on a weekend and with Monday and Tuesday designated as federal holidays, workers generally won’t feel the effects until Wednesday, the first full scheduled day back for affected employees.

So far, the biggest impact has been online, where some agencies have stopped updating websites and Twitter accounts. Some national park sites also slimmed operations as of Saturday morning. The Trump administration, drawing a contrast with the Obama administration’s approach, said it would make the closures as painless as possible.

Online oddsmaker BetDSI put the over-under line for betting on a shutdown at 13½ days. That would be shorter than the 2013 shutdown that Republicans orchestrated over Obamacare but longer than the two brief shutdowns earlier this year. Senate Democrats orchestrated a three-day shutdown, and a maverick Republican created an hourslong lapse.

The latest rests heavily on the shoulders of Mr. Trump, who insisted for more than a year that a shutdown was good politics.

The president canceled plans to be in Florida for Christmas and recalled the first lady back to Washington — she had already flown south — to join him for the holiday.

Mr. Trump warned on Twitter of “a long stay.”

Democrats did not show any signs Sunday of budging from their $1.3 billion ante and said the right wing of the Republican Party was leading Mr. Trump.

“It’s an issue of his own political insecurity,” Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin Illinois Democrat, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “When the right-wingers started screaming at him, he just backs off and dissembles in front of us. We’ve now reached a depth of dysfunction that I’ve never seen in Washington.”

One of those right-wing lawmakers, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, cheered the president’s stiffer spine.

“I think the president made it clear to all of us, and he’s made it clear to the country, that he is not going to take a bad deal from the Democrats, and anything under $2 billion or $1.6 billion, what Schumer was floating, that is a total nonstarter,” he said on Fox’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine” program. “We’re going to have real border security, or we’re going to have a long shutdown.”

Not all Republicans are on board, however.

“This is a made-up fight so the president can look like he’s fighting. But even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure,” Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Congress convened Saturday to see whether they could reach a quick deal on the seven remaining spending bills. The House was in session for just a couple of minutes. The Senate spent more time but achieved no more.

Republican leaders closed down the chambers until Thursday, guaranteeing no action before then.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said there won’t be any test votes or batting proposals back and forth between the House and Senate. The next time senators vote, it will be on a grand bargain between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer.

“It’s really simple,” Mr. McConnell said. “Sixty votes in the Senate, a majority in the House and President Trump’s signature. That’s what we need.”

The Senate on Friday passed a bill to guarantee that furloughed workers will be paid for the time they are out of work.

That legislation has not passed the House, though every previous major shutdown has ended with backpay for federal workers.

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