WASHINGTON — Incoming acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday “it’s very possible” the government shutdown could extend into the new year as President Donald Trump sticks to his demand for border wall funding.
“It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday."
Mulvaney, who currently serves as director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, also told ABC’s “This Week” that the White House was prepared to negotiate a deal that includes less than the $5 billion sought by Trump for the wall along the border with Mexico, but more than the $1.3 billion offered by Democrats for border security.
“We moved off of the 5. We hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney said.
The White House has offered a deal that would include $2.1 billion for border security, including money for new border wall fencing, according to The Washington Post, but Democrats on Sunday doubled down on their position to not provide any money for the construction of a wall, which they have described as a "medieval" solution to curb illegal border crossings.
“If Director Mulvaney says the Trump Shutdown will last into the New Year, believe him — because it’s their shutdown,” said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a statement.
Portions of the federal government shut down at midnight Friday after Congress and the White House failed to reach a compromise spending bill to keep more than a half dozen government agencies funded. The Senate will reconvene Thursday to resume budget negotiations.
The Republican-controlled Senate had passed a short-term spending measure to keep the impacted agencies funded through the new year, but the bill was rejected by Trump and House Republicans, who insisted the spending package must include $5 billion for the wall. Democrats, who currently hold enough votes to block the measure in the Senate and who will take control of the House in January, offered $1.3 billion and insisted the money should be used for border security equipment and personnel, not to build a wall.
Trump, on Sunday, took to Twitter to defend his demand for “a good old fashioned wall.”
“The only way to stop drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into our Country is with a Wall or Barrier,” Trump tweeted. “Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!”
Mulvaney also defended the need for a wall, telling "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace it is “absolutely necessary” and “why we’re having the battle.”
Asked about Trump’s campaign pledge that Mexico would pay for the wall, Mulvaney told ABC’s “This Week” that “technically” the Mexican government cannot hand over money for the project. Mexico has insisted it will not pay for the wall, while Trump has said the money will come indirectly via savings reached by a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“Technically, you and I both know that it cannot work exactly like that,” Mulvaney told ABC’s White House correspondent Jon Karl when asked about Mexico paying for the wall. “The Department of Homeland Security can't actually spend money from Mexico. We have to get it from the Treasury.”
About 400,000 federal employees will be furloughed under the shutdown that impacts the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury.
Lawmakers making the rounds of the Sunday political talk shows criticized Trump for leading members of Congress to a shutdown, after he initially signaled last week that he would sign off on the Senate’s temporary spending measure.
“This is a made-up fight so the president can look like he’s fighting, but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Corker noted that in 2013 the Senate — then under the control of Democrats — had passed a measure for $46 billion in border security funding as part of an immigration reform package that ultimately was never brought up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) dismissed the president’s border wall as a “fourth century strategy” that Democrats will not support.
“The American people want us to spend money in a smart way. Five billion dollars is a lot of money,” Merkley said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“That's 650,000 children attending Head Start. It's 2 million meals a day for a year ... for seniors. And to spend it on a fourth century strategy rather than on stuff that actually improves border security is something we're just not going to do.”