Donald Trump is backing away his $5 billion demand for a wall on the US-Mexico border which the president had claimed he would be happy to shut the government down over.
In a rare and short press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration will be looking into other federal agencies to cough up the money for the wall.
“The president has asked every agency to look and see if they have money that can be used for that purpose,” Ms Sanders said. “We’re looking at every avenue available.”
Earlier on Tuesday morning, the press secretary also walked away from Mr Trump’s threat of a government shutdown if a spending bill containing the funding fo his border wall does not pass by Friday.
“We will work with Congress if they will make sure we get a bill passed that provides not just the funding for the wall, but there’s a piece of legislation that’s been pushed around that Democrats actually voted 26-5 out of committee that provides roughly $26 billion for border security including $1.6 billion for the wall,” she told Fox News. “That’s something that we would be able to support as a long as we can couple that with other funding resources.”
Ms Sanders added that Mr Trump is looking to support a bipartisan compromise bill in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown later this week.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border.”
As part of the bipartisan bill Mr Trump will likely support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed $1.6 billion to build the border wall. He also proposed an additional $1 billion Mr Trump could use for the border, the Associated Press reported. The additional $1 billion is considered “a slush fund.”
Democrats have already rejected the proposal.
“What they might want to do with that $1 billion dollars is problematic,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.”Right now, what they’ve offered, we have not accepted.”
Ms Pelosi, a California Democrat, said it is a “good sign” that Mr Trump has proven to be willing to walk off his border wall demands. Both Ms Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they had proposed $1.3 billion for a border fencing.
Despite Democrats rejecting his proposal, Mr McConnell said he is confident that the government will not be shutting down. He said he is cooperating with the White House on finding the next steps forward and said it is "extremely flexible on this issue."
If a resolution does not come through on the Friday deadline, Mr Trump threatened to implement a government shutdown. If it occurs, more than 800,000 government workers could be furloughed or sent to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before the Christmas holiday.
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