White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday said President Trump is willing to take what Congress can give him for his U.S.-Mexico wall but that he may grab funds from elsewhere in the government to meet his $5.7-billion demand.
In essence, Mr. Trump is leaving all options on the table.
“This is going to get built with or without Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, who is serving in an interim capacity, told Fox News Sunday.
Capitol Hill negotiators are hoping to strike a deal on border security before federal funding lapses Feb. 15, though key negotiators didn’t paint a rosy picture Sunday, saying things could work out or be a “train wreck.”
“I’ll say 50-50 we get a deal,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth and Rep. Tom Graves, Georgia Republican, were more optimistic, telling ABC’s “This Week” they can craft a bill that will make it through both chambers.
Mr. Trump has floated the idea of going it alone by declaring an emergency at the southern border to build the wall he promised voters in 2016. Congressional Republicans are skittish about that idea, saying it would set a broad precedent for presidential powers.
Mr. Mulvaney said Mr. Trump is waiting on Capitol Hill negotiators to signal their intentions. Yet with lawmakers scuffling and promising less than what Mr. Trump wants, he may decide to search the couch cushions for available federal dollars.
“The whole pot is well north of $5.7 billion,” Mr. Mulvaney said, though didn’t shut the door to an emergency declaration.
Democrats rejected Mr. Trump’s demand for a wall in December, leading to a partial government shutdown that lasted over a month.
Congress passed a stopgap bill to reopen the government and force talks over border security, though federal workers could be furloughed again if talks fail or Mr. Trump refuses to sign any bill.
Senate negotiators said they’re hung up on how many detention beds should be available for migrants awaiting hearings. Democrats want to cap them, but that’s a problem for Republicans who fear illegal immigrants will be captured, released and fail to show up in court.
“I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning,” Mr. Shelby said.
They’re also nearing a dollar amount for border security, though the money will fall short of amount Mr. Trumps wants, and Democrats have rejected money for a wall, saying other enhancements can be made.
“I just don’t know where the Democrats are,” Mr. Mulvaney said, citing an array of numbers on the table. “I don’t think they know where they stand.”
Mr. Mulvaney said there will be important details in the fine print of any bill that emerges, so funding may lapse again.
“The government shutdown is technically still on the table,” he said.
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