Trump Backing Off Border Wall Shutdown Threat?

With three days to go before a government shutdown, there are at least some signs that the President may be backing away from his threats to shut down the government over funding for his border wall.

The White House appears to be backing away from threats to shut the government down over funding for the President’s border wall, but it’s still unclear exactly how the current budget impasse will be resolved:

WASHINGTON — The White House signaled on Tuesday that President Trump might be ready to capitulate on his demand for $5 billion for a wall on the southwestern border, but negotiations on a spending deal remained murky as lawmakers awaited a White House strategy to avert a Christmastime government shutdown.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday about the chances of avoiding a shutdown. “It’s too early to say.”

Days before midnight Friday, when funding for large parts of the government will lapse, Mr. Trump’s flirtation with a retreat on his wall only underscored the dysfunction at the tail end of the all-Republican majority on Capitol Hill. The White House blamed the Republican-controlled Senate for failing to pass legislation to bridge the divide, while Republican leaders said they were still unsure what the president was willing to sign.

“We are disappointed in the fact that they have yet to vote on something or pass something,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters.

Minutes later, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters at the Capitol that he was still trying to determine what Mr. Trump would accept.

“I’m in consultations with the White House about the way forward,” Mr. McConnell said, adding that he hoped to have more information later “about what the president is willing to sign.”

Republicans worked to create a package that would allow Mr. Trump to declare victory in retreat, but they came up empty, unable to forge a plan that would satisfy a president intent on fulfilling a signature campaign promise and Democrats emboldened by an impending takeover of the House. Instead, on Tuesday evening, Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters that Senate Republicans were preparing a short-term bill that would keep the government funded through February.

A stopgap bill would essentially push the government spending fight into the new year, when Democrats will assume control of the House and Mr. Trump’s negotiating leverage — already on the wane — will be considerably weakened.

Mr. McConnell said a stopgap measure would “end up, in effect, punting this year’s business into next year.”

“I think it’s not a very desirable outcome,” he said.

But Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said his party would be open to the idea. “We’d certainly very seriously look at it,” he told reporters.

After days of eerie quiet with a partial shutdown looming, the burst of activity suggested that all sides might be preparing for a brief holiday reprieve from their stalemate.

Ms. Sanders offered the first glimmers of a way out of the impasse in an interview Tuesday morning on Fox News, in which she said Mr. Trump — who only a week ago said he would be proud to force a shutdown over wall funding — did not want to see government funding lapse. She said the president was open to spending options short of the $5 billion lump sum he has demanded, and would find “different funding sources” to finance the wall.

“The president has asked every agency to look and see if they have money that could be used for that purpose,” she told reporters later.

Still, that would require approval from Congress, which Democrats said they would not grant.

In an evening tweet, the president appeared to continue to inch closer to the restrictions of the $1.6 billion funding in the Senate bill, claiming that “we are not building a Concrete Wall.” (Mr. Trump has mentioned concrete in his frequent, but fluctuating, descriptions of a wall.)

“We are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it,” the president wrote. “It will be beautiful and, at the same time, give our Country the security that our citizens deserve.”

Mr. McConnell had suggested a plan that would have provided $1.6 billion for border security but prohibited spending it on a wall, while allowing Mr. Trump to spend as much as $1 billion in unspent funds from other agencies on his immigration priorities. Mr. Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the presumptive incoming speaker, quickly rejected it.

In a post that was updated around 9;00 p.m. last night, Politico describes the situation as one where Republicans on Capitol Hill have talked the President off the edge and convinced him that forcing a shutdown over the holidays would be unwise:

Mitch McConnell thinks he’s gotten President Donald Trump to back off his shutdown threat. And it’s looking increasingly likely to come with a short-term punt.

The Senate majority leader emerged from a lengthy party lunch after a flurry of mixed signals from the White House to declare there will be no partial shutdown on Friday evening, when a quarter of government funding expires. The GOP majority may have to settle for a short-term delay, but McConnell said the White House is now “flexible” on border wall funding, just one week after Trump said he’d be “proud” to shut down the government in a fight over border security.

“He can speak for himself. But I think a government shutdown is not a good idea. That’s my view. The American people don’t like it,” McConnell told reporters. Asked whether he believes a shutdown could now be avoided ahead of the holidays, he responded: “Yeah, I do.”

McConnell’s efforts to soothe an inflamed debate between the president and Democratic leaders capped a day of unsuccessful negotiations between McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and a softening public position from the White House. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated the president could accept less than the $5 billion from Congress that he had previously demanded, and Schumer did not rule out a short-term spending bill that would punt the border fight to next year.

Trump, of course, revels in the daily drama and, on Tuesday, refused to admit defeat or pledge that he would win the standoff. After McConnell and Schumer spoke to reporters, the president said he wants more border security and was coy on whether he’ll sign whatever Congress sends him. “We’ll see what happens,” he told the news media.

Back on Capitol Hill, senators and aides said they believed a short-term spending bill might be the best option.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said Tuesday night that lawmakers were likely to pass a spending bill that would expire in “early February. It could flip a few days.”

“That would give the new Democratic House time to organize,” Shelby said. He said ultimately it would be up to McConnell and Trump, but acknowledged that was the most likely outcome.

Earlier Tuesday, McConnell suggested to Democrats that they pass the bipartisan Senate homeland security funding bill and its $1.6 billion for fencing plus an additional $1 billion in spending Trump could use on the wall, which Schumer deemed a “slush fund.”

The Democratic leader soon called McConnell to reject the proposal and stood behind a bill offering flat funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which would provide $1.3 billion for fencing.

“The Republican offer today would not pass either chamber,” Schumer told reporters. He said his caucus would “very seriously” consider a short-term spending bill, which would thrust a spending fight into the lap of presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the beginning of the new Congress.

The round of failed talks followed a key breakthrough: Sanders admitting publicly that Trump would take less than $5 billion in border wall funding from Congress as a condition for keeping the government funded. She said on Fox News that the administration would work with Hill leaders on passing a bipartisan bill providing $1.6 billion in fencing and would try to move more money around within the government to fund the border wall. Schumer said he would withhold congressional approval for that.

Later, Sanders told reporters the White House was “disappointed” the Senate hadn’t sent it anything. But she also underscored that the White House was waiting on lawmakers to act. “When they do something, we’ll make a decision about whether we’re going to sign it,” Sanders said.

And party leaders are clearly preparing to make a move given the new wave of negotiations among Schumer, McConnell and Pelosi.

Given the fact that the House was still out of session yesterday, all of yesterday’s action took place either behind the scenes or on the cable news shows. In that regard, it’s hard to tell exactly where things stand with just about sixty-odd hours to go before the current Continuing Resolution runs out. As things stand, though, things are going to have to move fairly quickly if something is going to get passed by both the House and Senate and make it to the President in time to avert a shutdown at midnight on Friday, although we can probably safely let things slide into the weekend a bit if necessary. The main reason for this is that even if a budget deal is reached the Senate still has to follow its debate rules, which means that a bill of some kind will have to pass the House as soon as possible, preferably by sometime late today, so that the Senate can consider and vote on the bill in a timely manner.

The problem in that regard, of course, is two-fold. First, we still don’t have any idea what kind of plan could pass the House and Senate and get the President’s approval. Second, even when we do reach that point the proposal will have to be put into legislative language, a process which takes time of its own. Third, the House Republican Leadership literally has no idea how many of its members will actually show up to vote this week given that so many of its members were defeated in November and/or retiring at the end of the year. All of this means that it is the Democrats who have the real bargaining power here, and their opposition to the border wall means that this entire debate about funding the wall is academic. In the end, the wall is never going to be fully funded, and never going to be built. The sooner Republicans realize that, the better.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump was right about one thing, I am sick of all the winning.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    This will be fun. Rather than have a shutdown over Trump’s absurd wall, we’ll have a shutdown for no reason at all aside from sheer Republican incompetence.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The world’s greatest negotiator folded like a Walmart lawn chair under his fat fake-tanned ass.
    Chuck and Nancy, indeed.
    @Michael Reynolds:
    It’s Obama’s fault.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This whole budget fight is much ado about nothing. MS Rep. Steven Palazzo and Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson have the solution to the deadlock: Crowdfunding.

    Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo proposed leveraging special U.S. Treasuries called “border bonds” to finance an expansion of the Southern border wall on Monday, the Sun Herald reported.

    Palazzo described his Border Bonds for America Act as “an alternative way to safely invest in border security” on Facebook. “It is a safe investment into the safety and security of our country,” he wrote.


    The legislation follows a similar proposal by Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson to create a “Border Wall Trust Fund” at the U.S. Treasury Department with the flexibility to accept donations in dollars, pesos and cryptocurrency. Davidson introduced the Buy a Brick, Build a Wall Act in late November.

    The 8th District Republican drew a parallel to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe in an interview with National Public Radio last week. “You could do it with this sort of, like, crowdfunding site,” Davidson said. “Or you could even do blockchain, and you could have wall coins. But you could raise the money. And frankly, if we get it right at the Treasury, you could even accept Mexican pesos.”

    It is not clear why bonds or cryptocurrency would be preferable to raising the money through taxes.

    “The Buy a Brick, Build the Wall Act is simply another funding source and a way for everyone to chip in and support the President’s commitment to build the wall,” a spokesman for Davidson said.

    I heartily support the efforts of these fine upstanding members of Congress to give the president his new Lego set and suggest they set the tone by being the first to tax themselves for it to a level commensurate with their desire to see it built.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    Apparently he is backing down because a shutdown would force him to cancel the 16 day Golf vacation to Maralago he has planned over Christmas.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It’s Obama’s fault.

    I certainly blame him.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    Where are the Trumpers telling us what a great negotiator their boy is? Can we just end this moronic nonsense that somehow being a businessman makes you qualified to be president? And while you could argue that being a CEO of a large company gives you some worthwhile experience, Trump doesn’t even have that.
    – His business was essentially a sole proprietorship, not a large corporation with tens of thousands of employees and dozens of established product lines.
    – Since his multiple bankruptcies several decades ago his “business” has consisted of licensing his name to various real estate developers and being “The Talent” on a reality TV show. Neither of those things connect in any way with a being a real executive, whether in the corporate world or a government
    – In his business he was free to only focus on those things that interested him. Once a licensing deal was done, it was done and didn’t really require any further attention. This is the exact opposite of being President, where 99.99% of the “business” is ongoing, and so vital that it can’t even be considered for elimination.
    – He was the big cheese in his business and everyone else who worked there were far, far down the totem pole. He didn’t even have a board of directors to answer to and, since his company wasn’t public, there weren’t even shareholders who were entitled to an explanation of what he was doing. This could not be more different than the Presidency.

    This list could go on and on, but bottom line: even if you think being a corporate CEO qualifies you to be president (it doesn’t), Donald Trump has never been a CEO in any meaningful way.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’m waiting for the sycophants to explain how not getting the wall built is all part of Individual-1’s 3D chess strategy for getting the wall built.
    So much whining. Er…I mean…winning.

  9. Kathy says:

    Trump is just like a bad version of Lance Armstrong: a fraud who cheats in order to win, then goes after the people trying to expose his cheating and lying.

    When Armstrong finally crashed, it was spectacular.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    The Democrats, are saying loud and clear that they do not want to build a Concrete Wall – but we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it….

    You cannot make up how pathetic and stupid this baby-child is.

  11. Tyrell says:

    If there is a shut down, the tax payers should get some kind of tax rebate on the money saved.
    One idea for an effective wall would use technology as an invisible wall: cheaper, safer, effective.
    Watch “Great Wall” – about the Great Wall of China.
    Breaking news: MSNBC did an intriguing story the other day about a space launch. They managed to go 6 minutes without mentioning Trump. A record!

  12. Kylopod says:

    Oh, this is getting so delicious. Here are two Trump tweets this morning:

    “In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!”


    “Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA! Far more money coming to the U.S. Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!”

    Expect more of this.

    The most Schadenfreudtastic element of the Trump era is when he endures a thorough ass-beating then simply claims to have won. There was some of that with the failed attempts at ACA repeal, but that was tempered somewhat by the fact that the GOP did real damage to the law. The demise of “the wall” is a far more unambiguous defeat, and it’s one I suspect he cares a lot more about–it’s the moment where Shrek looks at Donkey and says “Maybe he’s compensating for something?” (in a dig lost on the majority of the audience but not their parents or even older siblings). It also gives us a good glimpse of how he’d have reacted if he’d lost the 2016 election. Everyone knows he was planning to deny Hillary’s victory was a victory, and he was as surprised as anyone when he actually won the thing–but even that didn’t stop him from denying she’d won the popular vote, or from claiming he’d won a historic landslide. And we know, of course, that if he loses in 2020 he will never concede. Even if he loses in a massive landslide he’ll go to his grave claiming to have been the rightful winner, and to have been the greatest president of all time who created the bestest economy and the biggest and beautifulest wall the world had ever seen.

    It serves as a helpful reminder that when and if we finally emerge from the Trump era it’ll feel like waking up from an absurd nightmare where you were being attacked by Veruca Salt or something, where in the light of day you’re able to laugh at it but not while it was going on.

  13. Teve says:

    that’s a go fund me to pay for Trump’s border wall. I hope he steals every last dime from them.

  14. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: The electronic wall already exists (the concept was started long ago). I saw many a drone take off and land here during Obama’s presidency. After Trump became president the number of drones taking off from here to patrol the border dropped to basically zero.

  15. Teve says:

    “They’re very concerned that he’s not fulfilling his campaign promise,” Mr. Meadows said of voters, describing the hundreds of phone calls his office received on Wednesday protesting the president’s apparent retreat. “They believe it’s a promise that the president said he would keep

    if these people still believe Trump keeps his promises, they’re dumb as chimps with brain damage.