US Congress is preparing to kick the fight over Trump's border wall down the road and narrowly avoid a shutdown mess

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump got into a heated debate with Democratic leaders in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that the Senate would vote on a short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown at week’s end.
  • The bill would fund parts of the government through February 8.
  • This would also delay the fight over funding for President Donald Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border.
  • The bill still must go through a few procedural hurdles in the Senate, pass the House, and be signed by Trump.

Congress moved a step closer toward avoiding a government shutdown later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that the Senate would vote on a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, to keep the government open until February 8, which would avoid a shutdown but also delay the fight over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

“Later this morning, we’ll introduce a continuing resolution that will ensure continuous funding for the federal government,” McConnell said in a statement. “The measure will provide the resources necessary to continue normal operations through February 8th.”

A slew of government agencies are set to shut down absent continued funding, putting about 800,000 federal employees at risk of being placed on furlough or made to work with no pay.

Trump’s border wall has been the key sticking point in funding negotiations. The president had demanded that Democrats allocate $US5 billion to the construction of his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border. But Democrats pushed back and offered only to include $US1.6 billion in funding for border security that was restricted in its use.

A shutdown seemed all but inevitable last week when Trump declared during a meeting with the Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the wall funding. But the White House seemed to signal that the president was softening on that position on Tuesday.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters that the Trump administration would look for the desired $US5 billion in wall funding in previously approved funding, backing off the demand for a clear appropriation in the new bill.

“At the end of the day we don’t want to shut down the government – we want to shut down the border,” she said.

In the statement announcing the move, McConnell placed the blame for the brinkmanship at the Democrats’ feet.

“I’m sorry that my Democratic colleagues couldn’t put partisanship aside and show the same good-faith flexibility that the president has shown in order to provide the resources our nation needs to secure the integrity of our borders and the safety of American families,” McConnell said. “But this seems to be the reality of our political moment.”

Schumer, on the other hand, said the agreement came together only after Trump backed off demands for a large amount of border-wall funding.

“For the past several weeks, the president’s insistence on $US5 billion for a wall has been the biggest obstacle to keeping the government open past Friday,” Schumer said.

He added that Senate Democrats would support the short-term funding bill.

“Leader McConnell has proposed a short-term CR just a few minutes ago,” he said during a floor speech Wednesday. “We would have preferred one of our two options but I’m glad the leader thinks the government should not shut down over the president’s demand for a wall. And Democrats will support this CR. The president and the House should follow that lead, because shutting down the government over Christmas is a terrible idea – one of the worst to come down the pike in a very long time.”

The bill must go through procedural hurdles before a Senate vote and then be cleared by the House before going to Trump’s desk for a signature. In a statement, House Speaker Designate Nancy Pelosi announced House Democrats would support the bill.

“This is a missed opportunity to pass full-year funding bills now,” Pelosi said. “However, Democrats will be ready to fully, responsibly fund our government in January, and we will support this continuing resolution.”

While the softening stance on the wall from Sanders seems to indicate Trump’s willingness to sign, there is also a chance that the unpredictable president vetoes the bill. When asked about the resolution, the White House did not clarify whether the president would sign, only pointing back to the statements made Tuesday.

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