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Trump talks spending with key GOP chairman as deadline looms

Trump talks spending with key GOP chairman as deadline looms
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE spoke on Thursday night with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTop GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week McConnell: COVID-19 relief will be added to omnibus spending package Bipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal MORE (R-Ala.) about government funding ahead of the Dec. 20 shutdown deadline. 

A source familiar with the discussion said the president and Shelby had a "productive conversation" about the appropriations process. 

"President Trump was positive and encouraging about working with us to complete our FY20 bills," the source added on Friday. 

The conversation comes as lawmakers are in the midst of a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations as they try to make progress on the fiscal 2020 funding bills.

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Congress has until Dec. 20. to prevent a government shutdown days before the Christmas holiday. To do that they either need to pass all 12 fiscal 2020 funding bills, or buy themselves more time with another continuing resolution. 

Shelby's talk with Trump comes after he took part in two meetings with leaders of the Defense appropriations subcommittee on Thursday. He said afterwards  that they had a "positive meeting" and were "real close" to a deal on the defense bill, potentially as soon as the middle of next week. 

"We went over our differences. ... We believe we're very close, very close to working it out," Shelby said, adding that staff if working on three or four remaining issues in the defense bill.

The border wall has emerged as the biggest hurdle to negotiators as they try to get a deal on the fiscal 2020 spending bills. 

Beyond funding for new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, Congress and the White House need to get an agreement on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) beds and Trump's ability to shift defense money to the border wall. 

Shelby told The Hill on Thursday that they had not yet reached an agreement on Trump's ability to reprogram funding, and indicated that it might have to be worked out at the leadership level.  

"We are trying to agree on what we can agree on and some things we can't they're going to have to be worked out by Schumer and Pelosi and the president and McConnell," he added, referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell: COVID-19 relief will be added to omnibus spending package Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Houston will send residents checks of up to ,200 for pandemic relief MORE (D-Calif.).