- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Trump administration has proposed a counter-offer between $5 billion and $1.3 billion to fund a border wall, also known as a “steel-slatted fence,” but that may not be enough to stop the shutdown from spilling into the next Congress.

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the White House took its offer Saturday to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has called on the administration to “abandon” the border wall, saying that President Trump lacks the necessary 60 Senate votes.

“They were at $1.3 [billion] yesterday, we were at $5 billion a couple of days ago, and the counter offer we gave them yesterday was between those two numbers,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We moved off of the 5 we hope they move up from their 1.3.”

Even if the Democrats are receptive, Mr. Mulvaney said the partial shutdown that kicked in Saturday could extend into the new year, given that Monday and Tuesday are both federal holidays, as is New Year’s Day.

“Here’s the problem, of course, is that as recently as two weeks ago they had offered us $1.6 billion for that same thing, so they’re moving in the wrong direction,” said Mr. Mulvaney. “I think there’s a really good question here as to whether or not this deal can be cut before the new Congress comes in.”

He cited the political pressure from the left on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the frontrunner to be elected House Speaker when Democrats take over the chamber next month. The 116th Congress convenes Jan. 3.

“I think there’s an implication here for Nancy Pelosi’s election for the speakership,” he said. “I think she’s now in the unfortunate position that she’s beholden to her left wing, so that she cannot be seen as agreeing with the president on anything. So I think there’s a chance we go into the next Congress.”

Democrat have said they will not fund a wall, but technically, President Trump isn’t asking for a wall, he’s asking for a steel-slatted fence with pointed tops to serve as a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The president tweeted out picture of steel-slatted fence. That’s what we want to build,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “In the Democrats’ mind, that is not a wall. So they have offered us $1.3 billion to build the barrier that we want, but then they go on TV and say there’s no money for a wall. We’ve already told the Democrats we want what the president tweeted out.”

He added that “right now, the Democrats, the ball is in their court.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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