Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, and John Wagner, Washington Post, December 18, 2018
President Trump on Tuesday retreated from his demand that Congress give him $5 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, backing down amid acrimonious GOP infighting that left him with few options four days ahead of a partial government shutdown.
The news, delivered by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in an interview on Fox News, represented a major shift from Trump’s declaration last week that he would be “proud” to shut down the government to get the money he wanted for his border wall.
But Sanders told Fox News Channel: “We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion.”
“At the end of the day we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the White House was exploring other funding sources and believed it could be legally done.
Funding for the Homeland Security Department, Justice, Interior, Agriculture and other agencies — comprising a quarter of the federal government — runs out Friday at midnight absent action by Congress and Trump. The funding is all hung up over Trump’s demands for the wall and Democrats and Republicans have been in a stand-off over how to resolve the dispute.
Republicans didn’t have a way to proceed because they lacked 60 votes in the Senate to proceed to a vote on a spending bill.
House and Senate Republicans have been in talks with the White House in recent days looking at other ways to try and secure funding, outside of the traditional appropriations process. They have looked at redirecting already approved money, among other things, according to a person briefed on the talks who requested anonymity to discuss deliberations.
Meanwhile, the stock market has fallen precipitously in recent weeks, creating economic angst over Trump’s agenda. Trump has attacked the Federal Reserve, among others, for the stock market’s tumble, but it has rattled him, according to people who have spoken with him both inside and outside the White House.
Sanders’ referenced a $1.6 billion border security bill that was agreed to in the Senate earlier this year on a bipartisan basis. However, in recent weeks Democrats have said they would support only $1.3 billion for fencing, and that the $1.6 billion package would not pass the House. That left it unclear how and whether the contours of the deal being described by the White House could take shape.
Congressional Republicans promised Trump several months ago that if he would delay a fight over the border wall until after the midterm elections, they would help him obtain the money in December. But those efforts never materialized, and he was under heavy pressure to avoid a partial government shutdown just a few days before Christmas.
“The advice he’s getting is to not do this, to just sign the bill, get this over with, and get into 2019 and then have this fight,” said Steve Moore, who was an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.