Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Trump may accept less money for wall

COLD CHRISTMAS:White House official Mick Mulvaney said the shutdown might go into next month, when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives


Both sides in the long-running fight over funding US President Donald Trump’s US-Mexico border wall appear to have moved toward each other, but a shutdown of one-fourth of the federal government entered Christmas without a clear resolution in sight.

A top White House official warned the shutdown could stretch into next month.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who is also the budget director, said he was waiting to hear from US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer about a counteroffer the White House presented Schumer over the weekend.

Mulvaney would only say the offer was between Trump’s US$5.7 billion request and the US$1.3 billion Democrats have offered.

“We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney said less than a day after a senior administration official insisted that Congress would have to cave into Trump’s demand for the shutdown to end, highlighting Trump’s unpredictable negotiating style.

Schumer’s office said that the parties remained “very far apart.”

US Senator Dick Durbin argued for increased use of technology along the border instead of “some medieval wall.”

Asked whether he is willing to offer more money as long as it is not spent on a wall, the Democratic lawmaker responded: “Absolutely.”

A stalemate over the wall led parts of the government to shut down on Saturday after funding for numerous departments and agencies expired.

The closure affects hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the nation and was expected to last at least through Thursday, when the US House of Representatives and Senate meet again.

Yesterday and today, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day respectively are federal holidays, meaning the government would have been closed anyway. That means tomorrow is the first day the public could begin to feel the effects of lost government services, Mulvaney said.

He predicted the shutdown could go into next month, when Democrats assume control of the House based on their midterm election gains.

“It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” Mulvaney said.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, countered: “If Director Mulvaney says the Trump Shutdown will last into the New Year, believe him, because it’s their shutdown.”

Trump recently said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over border issues.

Democrats held firm on Sunday in opposition to a wall, which Trump promised his political base he would build.

“The president’s not going to not accept money for a border wall,” Mulvaney said.

Trump tweeted on Sunday, the shutdown’s second day, that what is needed is “a good old fashioned WALL that works,” not aerial drones or other measures that “are wonderful and lots of fun,” but not the answer to address drugs, gangs, human trafficking and other criminal elements entering the country.

He put off plans to spend Christmas at his Florida estate and remained in Washington.

Meanwhile, the routines of about 800,000 federal employees were about to be disrupted.

More than half of those employees are deemed essential, such as US Secret Service agents and US Transportation Security Administration airport agents, and must work without pay, though retroactive pay is expected.

Another 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they would not report to work, but would be paid later.

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