White House Backing Off Wall Funding Demand to Avoid Shutdown

WASHINGTON (CN) – With the White House backing off a demand that Congress include funding for a wall across the southern border in an upcoming government funding package, Senate leadership was confident Tuesday a deal will get done before Friday’s deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

President Donald Trump had pressured Congressional leaders to include the funding for the wall in the latest spending bill that must pass to keep the government from shutting down.  A central point in his run for the White House, the wall faced unified opposition from Democrats and even from some Republicans.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday confirmed that the Trump administration has backed off on his demand for wall money, clearing up the path for a $1 trillion spending package that Congress must pass by midnight on Friday to keep the government open.

“Now the bipartisan bicameral negotiations to reach an agreement that both parties can be proud of can move forward,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill would fund the government through Sept. 30 and that he was hopeful Congressional leadership will be able to come to an agreement by the end of the week, though he would not rule out the possibility that they might have to pass a short-term spending package to get over the final few sticking points.

“We’re hoping to reach an agreement in the next few days on how to process the entire bill through September 30th and I don’t want to speculate on whether that can actually clear this week but we’re working on a permanent agreement through September 30th,” McConnell told reporters.

Those remaining sticking points are familiar to those who have followed the spending negotiations over the past few years. Democrats are insisting Republicans do not attempt to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood or roll back financial protections in the spending agreement, which Schumer has referred to as “poison pill riders.”

“The formula for reaching a bipartisan budget agreement has always been straightforward,” Sen. Patty Murray told reporters Tuesday. “Once Republican leaders in Congress decide to push aside the most extreme elements of their party and work with us to invest in middle class priorities, we get a deal done.”

Schumer said Democrats are not against including some funding for border security, such as for drones or other technology to help police the border, but that they will fight to make sure none of that money can go towards Trump’s planned wall.

Trump also has not completely dropped the wall from his agenda. On Tuesday Trump told reporters at the White House that “the wall is going to get built,” though he reportedly will push that fight until September.

Though the road to the spending agreement appears more clear than it did just days before, the tensions between the negotiators was clear on Tuesday. McConnell told reporters there were “some challenges” to get Schumer to deal with the White House during the process, a charge Schumer refuted at a press conference shortly after.

Schumer said McConnell wanted him to negotiate with Trump on the wall and that he told his Republican counterpart that he should convince Trump to drop the issue from the bill.

 

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