Donald Trump holding firm on $5 billion demand for border wall

December 22, 2018

President Trump is not backing off his demand for $5 billion for border security that includes a physical barrier as he negotiates with Senate Democrats to end the partial government shutdown, officials said Saturday.

During the shutdown, however, the president ordered affected departments and agencies to make it as “painless as possible” for the American public, said a senior administration official.

The partial shutdown affecting about 25 percent of the federal government began Saturday because of a dispute over border security funding, with Senate Democrats dead set against funding a border wall that was Mr. Trump’s top campaign promise.

The president has backed off plans for a concrete wall but he still wants $5 billion for some sort of barrier.

“We need $5 billion in physical barriers. We are open to a lot of options along those lines,” said a senior administration official.

In the meantime, the administration is trying to make as many federal services available as possible, said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

“Our motto here is: ‘As painless as possible consistent with the law,’ not ‘as painful as possible’ as it was with the last administration,” said the official.

The official was referring to the Obama administration’s effort to dramatize the 2013 government shutdown with moves such as erecting police barrier around monuments in Washington and cordoning off scenic overlooks along highways.

While the current partial shutdown does not affect 75 percent of the federal government that Congress already funded, several big departments are impacted: Interior, Justice and Homeland Security.

The administration outlined key services that would continue to operate:

FDA food safety inspections;

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) payments for food and healthcare;

Department of Justice law enforcement efforts;

Passport services;

Consular support services overseas;

Federal payments for public housing and rental assistance;

Monuments and some parks remain open, though without services such as restrooms;

And preparations for the 2020 Census.

Some activities, such as work on the census, continue using leftover money from the previous appropriation.

A workforce of about 80,000 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) remain on the job, part of the essential federal workers who keep working during shutdowns.

Work building the border wall also will continue based on prior multi-year appropriations said the official.

“We are trying to manage this partial shutdown with minimal disruption to the American people and give the negotiators [room] to get an agreement that accomplishes the border security priorities of this administration,” said the official.

Update hourly