Trump weighs next move on wall

President meets with top aides to come up with a resolution

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is racing to avoid a partial government shutdown next Friday over President Donald Trump’s border wall. But you wouldn’t know it by the schedule, as lawmakers left town waiting for the White House’s next move.

The House is taking an extended five-day weekend, returning Wednesday night. The Senate returns Monday after a three-day absence.

The ball is in Trump’s court, both sides say, and the president met Friday with top aides to discuss his spending strategy. There’s an expectation on Capitol Hill he’ll reach out soon to offer lawmakers a plan.

The president said this week he’d be “proud” to shut down the government over the $5 billion he wants for the wall on the southern border, but he has since taken a softer tone, tweeting, “Let’s not do a shutdown, Democrats — do what’s right for the American People!” But Trump doesn’t have the votes from the Republican-controlled Congress to support funding for the wall at the level he wants.

Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, made a counter offer during a contentious meeting at the White House of no more than $1.6 billion, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. The money would not go for the wall but for fencing upgrades and other border security. Democrats also offered to simply keep funding at its current level, $1.3 billion.

Without a resolution, parts of the federal government would shut down at midnight Dec. 21.

Trump met on Friday with legislative affairs director Shahira Knight and budget director Mick Mulvaney to discuss strategy. Some White House aides were startled by Trump’s embrace of a shutdown during his meeting with Democratic leaders, though others argued that it was another example of Trump sticking with his campaign promises.

“The president made it very clear: He does want a border wall. He does want border security. He wants to protect the American people,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters on Friday.

While Trump has long rallied for the border wall with Mexico, a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, Republicans on Capitol Hill never fully warmed to the plan, and they are less likely now to round up the votes for it after losing the House majority in the November election.