Trump floats ending shutdown with a 'down payment' on wall, but Pelosi doesn't blink

After the Senate failed Thursday to pass either of two bills that would have reopened the federal government, President Trump floated a compromise of sorts on his demand for $5.7 billion to build a barrier on the border with Mexico.

It didn’t win over the person it was intended to appeal to, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“One of the ideas suggested is they open it, they pay a sort of prorated down payment for the wall which, I think, people agree that you need. You need the wall. In fact, I see a lot of the Democrats, almost all of them are breaking, saying, ‘Look, walls are good. Walls are good.'”

Trump’s remarks came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., huddled on Capitol Hill seeking a deal to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Neither a Republican bill containing money for a wall nor a Democratic one that did not received the 60 votes needed for passage, although the Democratic bill, which attracted support from a handful of Republicans, came closer.

President Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room on Thursday. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Hours earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that a short-term spending bill to reopen government “would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.”

Neither Sanders nor the president offered any details about  how much money constituted a “large down payment.” In December, Trump scuttled a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through February because it didn’t have an appropriation for the wall.

When asked by reporters about Trump’s proposal for a large “prorated down payment,” Pelosi responded, “That is not a reasonable agreement.”

Trump also told White House reporters he would support a “reasonable agreement” between McConnell and Schumer, but was mum on specifics.

“If they come to a reasonable agreement, I would support it, yes,” Trump said.

Pelosi, however, made clear that she wasn’t interested in giving the president more money for a wall.

“The president just said that if they come to a reasonable agreement he would support it. I hope that that doesn’t mean some big down payment for the wall,” Pelosi said. Asked by reporters if she knew what Trump meant by a “large prorated down payment,” she said she didn’t. “I don’t know if he knows what he’s talking about,” she said. “Do you?”

The president has often referred to congressional funding for border security as a “down payment” for a border wall, his signature campaign promise. The $5.7 billion he is seeking now would pay for a wall extending only a fraction of the entire 2,000-mile border, or even the 1,000 miles he has said in the past would suffice.

Trump has also gone back and forth on the construction of the wall, variously steel slats or concrete, and how he would fulfill his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for it. The Mexican government has refused even to discuss the idea, and most recently Trump has said the funds would come indirectly from Mexico as a side effect of the new trade agreement he has negotiated to replace NAFTA. He has also claimed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill he signed on March 23 included “an initial downpayment” for his wall, but Pelosi had a different take.

“Democrats won explicit language restricting border construction to the same see-through fencing that was already authorized under current law,” Pelosi said.

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