Border wall bickering raises odds of shutdown

Democrats and Republicans are hardening their positions on President TrumpDonald John TrumpProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Ilhan Omar: GOP response to calls for police reform 'was vicious' White House considers sweeping travel ban on members, families of the Chinese Communist Party: 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 SchumerHow a progressive populist appears to have toppled Engel MJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel 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 CheneyDancing with no rhythm: Republican candidates resemble Elaine on Seinfeld Congressional inconsistency continues regarding war powers US praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign 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 ShelbyHouse panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021 Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff Sessions fights for political life in Alabama runoff 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 LoweyHouse panel wraps up lightning-fast appropriations for 2021 How a progressive populist appears to have toppled Engel Progressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey 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 PelosiPelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments Car on fire near Supreme Court Watch live: Pelosi speaks on coronavirus funding 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 McConnellProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Pelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments Lincoln Project reports raising .8 million for anti-Trump efforts MORE (R-Ky.) has worked to sideline the Mueller bill but faces additional pressure from retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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.”