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Border wall bickering raises odds of shutdown

Democrats and Republicans are hardening their positions on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE's proposed border wall, raising the odds of a partial government shutdown this month.

The White House and Senate Democrats are already pointing fingers over who would be to blame if a shutdown occurs, with each accusing the other side of precipitating a potential funding lapse over the wall.

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"If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down some departments and agencies over Christmas, that's certainly within his power," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on the Senate floor.

The White House shot back, accusing Democrats of preferring a shutdown instead of stronger border security.

"Another Schumer shutdown would not surprise anyone, it has become the new norm in Washington," said Meghan Burris, a spokeswoman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The federal government briefly shut down in January after a standoff over whether to extend protections to “Dreamers,” immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, and again in February over spending disagreements.

This time around, Congress has until Dec. 7 to pass seven appropriations bills to keep the entire government funded. Portions of the government funded in the five previous bills, which Trump signed in September, would not be affected by a shutdown.

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But without an agreement on the wall early this week, Congress will likely have to pass a short-term extension to keep the government funded and allow more time for negotiations.

So far, little progress has been made.

The Senate passed its version of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill with bipartisan support over the summer. The measure would allocate $1.6 billion for border security, including pedestrian fencing in the Rio Grande Valley. That sum was in line with the White House’s budget request at the time.

But the White House later said it wanted more money.

Trump told Republican appropriators in a tense meeting in June, before the Senate passed its DHS bill, that the figure was not high enough, and demanded $5 billion to fund the wall. When House Republicans passed their version of the bill in committee a few weeks later, they allocated the full $5 billion.

The president has since threatened to veto any spending bill that doesn’t fund the wall to his satisfaction, telling Politico this week that he would “totally be willing" to shut down the government if there’s an impasse.

Rather than moving toward an agreement, negotiators on both sides have dug in their heels.

"The president has been very clear that $5 billion is the number that we're going to be focused on, the number we need," Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (Wyo.), the incoming House Republican Conference chairwoman, said on Tuesday.

In his Thursday floor speech, Schumer said Republicans could choose one of two “reasonable” options to avert a shutdown: Stick with the Senate-passed bill from the summer or keep 2018 funding levels in place through Sept. 30 by passing a continuing resolution.

“President Trump has a simple choice of two good, bipartisan options. If he decides to support either the bipartisan DHS bill or a continuing resolution, I am confident that both would pass by comfortable margins,” Schumer said. “The only position that cannot garner 60 votes is the president’s position.”

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Trump, Pelosi barrel toward final border wall showdown MORE (R-Ala.), the top Senate appropriator, has been working to advance a compromise that would secure $5 billion in wall funding over two years. Democrats would have to agree to an additional $900 million in funding for 2018, and forego a fight over wall funding in fiscal 2019, which ends Sept. 30.

House Democrats said the Shelby proposal was untenable.

“No matter how many years you spread it over, $5 billion for President Trump’s wasteful wall is too much money,” said Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE (D-N.Y.), the House’s top Democratic appropriator.

Other political and legislative obstacles are complicating matters.

Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.), are pushing for the spending bill to include legislation that would protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE and his Russia investigation.

Pelosi has little incentive to cave to Trump’s demands as she attempts to win over the remaining skeptics in her party to support her bid for Speaker on Jan. 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently MORE (R-Ky.) has worked to sideline the Mueller bill but faces additional pressure from retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden eyeing Cindy McCain for UK ambassador position: report Profiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers McSally concedes Arizona Senate race MORE (R-Ariz.), who is opposing Trump’s judicial nominations until the Senate votes on the Mueller measure.

Congressional leaders want to avoid extending their legislative session past Dec. 14. Before then, they need to pass a farm bill and reach a long-term agreement on national flood insurance, with Republicans wanting to push through a slate of court nominees.

With Democrats taking control of the House next month, Republicans know they will be in a weakened negotiating position come January, increasing the chances that Trump will follow through on his threats to veto a spending bill that doesn’t meet his funding demands for the wall.

In the past, he has backed down on such threats, but he seems convinced that standing firm on the issue will benefit him politically.

"I don't do anything ... just for political gain," Trump said this week. "But I will tell you, politically speaking, that issue is a total winner.”