U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be backing away from his threat to force a partial federal government shutdown, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying there are "other ways" to get $5 billion for a wall along the U.S. southern border.
"At the end of the day, we don't want to shut down the government," Sanders told Fox News."We want to shut down the border from illegal immigration."
Sanders cited existing legislation, likely the Senate's bipartisan funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security.The bill, approved by a committee vote last summer, calls for $26 billion, including $1.6 billion for barriers.
Sanders said the measure is "something that we would be able to support" as long as it is attached to other funding proposals for defense and border security.
Before Sander's remarks, there was little public indication of progress in resolving the stalemate over U.S. government spending, which could trigger a partial shutdown at midnight Friday.
At the center of the dispute is Trump's insistence that Congress approve $5 billion in spending for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats and some Republicans oppose the plan, and Democratic leaders have offered $1.3 billion in other border security funding.
Trump used Twitter to attack the Democrats on Monday as the two sides came no closer to an agreement.
"Anytime you hear a Democrat saying that you can have good Border Security without a Wall, write them off as just another politician following the party line," the U.S. leader said on Twitter. "Time for us to save billions of dollars a year and have, at the same time, far greater safety and control!"
The top Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer said there is not enough support in Congress for Trump's wall, and that "no threat or temper tantrum" will change that.
"If President Trump decides to shut down the government, there is no end game in which President Trump gets the wall," Schumer said."There is no end game for Republicans in which they can avoid their share of responsibility - overwhelming share -for a shutdown.The time to solve this problem is now."
In a meeting last week at the White House, Trump told Schumer and House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi that he would be happy to take responsibility for a government shutdown rather than give up any ground on the border wall issue.
But to avert a Friday shutdown, Democrats and Republicans could reach agreement on a stopgap spending plan to fund government operations through the end of this year and into 2019.
Spending for three-fourths of the government has already been approved through next September, but the remaining bills include 2019 funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Interior Department.