Donald Trump has invited leaders from both parties and chambers of Congress to a White House briefing on border security, a sign he may be looking to end a partial government shutdown that has lasted nearly two weeks.
Details of the meeting’s exact timing or contents are not yet clear – other than it will happen Wednesday – but having lashed out at Democrats for most of New Year’s Day over the shutdown, he later tweeted “Let’s make a deal?”
Mr Trump has stood firm since the shutdown started in late December over his request for $5bn in specific funding for his promised wall on the US-Mexico border. However, the president had said earlier on Tuesday that he is “ready, willing and able” to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown. But he did send a number of tweets as the morning wore on taunting the Democrats and blaming them for the political stalemate.
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Democrats, who are set to take over control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, have made clear that any spending bill aimed that re-starting the government will not pass if it includes Mr Trump’s request for taxpayer funding for the wall.
The party is set to introduce two separate bits of legislation to fund the government without the border wall money on Thursday. The two-part package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels until 8 February and provide $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.
The second part of the package would fund federal agencies that are now unfunded, such as the Justice, Commerce and Transportation departments, until 30 September, the end of the federal fiscal year.
By Tuesday afternoon Mr Trump suggested that Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be confirmed as the Speaker of the House, and Democrat leadership did not want to start their year this way. “Border security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” he said.
Even if Democrats pass their spending legislation through the House quickly on Thursday, it will not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate and onto Mr Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
The spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Donald Stewart, said on Tuesday that Senate Republicans would not take action without Mr Trump’s backing.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign,” Mr Stewart said.
Even if only symbolic, the passage of the bills in the House would put fresh pressure on the president. At the same time, administration officials said Trump was in no rush for a resolution to the impasse.
Mr Trump had earlier told Fox News in an interview that he was “ready to go” on a deal. “I spent Christmas in the White House, I spent New Year’s Eve in the White House,” he said. “I’m here, I’m ready to go, it’s important.”
But a couple of hours later he tweeted his disdain for the Democrats legislation: “The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security.”
Reuters contributed to this report
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