White House suggests it could back down on $5 billion border wall demand

The White House suggested Tuesday that President Donald Trump could back down from his demand for $5 billion to fund his proposed border wall in a year-end spending bill.

Trump’s push for the money has threatened a partial government shutdown when funding for seven agencies lapses after midnight Friday. Last week, the president said he would be “proud” to close parts of the government over border security.

“We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion” and will “work with Congress” to do so, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News on Tuesday morning. She added that the Trump administration could support $1.6 billion in border security funding proposed by Senate Democrats, as long as it can “couple that with other funding resources” to get to $5 billion.

Sanders’ comments mark a de-escalation in the White House’s rhetoric about the proposed barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has repeatedly threatened to force a shutdown if he cannot secure money for the wall. As a candidate, he promised to force Mexico to fund the barrier. Mexico has refused.

Still, Trump himself has not weighed in Tuesday on how much money he would accept. As always, a comment or tweet from the president could trample on the message administration officials try to send. On Tuesday afternoon, Trump told reporters it is “too early to say” if parts of the government will shut down.

Later Tuesday, Sanders put the burden on Congress to find a solution, even though GOP lawmakers have said they do not know what Trump would accept. The White House wants to “see what the Senate can pass” and then the administration will “make a determination” on whether to sign it, she said. Sanders added that Trump has directed agencies to see if they have money to put toward border security, though Schumer flatly said Tuesday afternoon that such an effort would not get congressional approval.