The partial government shutdown could go on for potentially many more days – and perhaps weeks – but the White House indicated Sunday that it was backing down on its main sticking point: It was requesting less than $5 billion for border wall funding.
Still, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney didn’t indicate what that number was. President Donald Trump is not backing down from his "fight over border security," Mulvaney told Fox News Sunday.
"I don't think things are going to move very quickly," Mulvaney said.
He also said "there's a chance this could go into the next Congress," which begins Jan. 3.
Mulvaney said the White House provided "a counteroffer" Saturday to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and is awaiting a response.
While not providing many details, Mulvaney said the White House has reduced its demand for $5 billion in wall funding but is also demanding more than the $1.3 billion Democrats are talking about. He did not provide the new number.
"We moved off the 5 – we hope they move off the 1.3," Mulvaney said, adding of the Democrats: "The ball right now is in their corner."
The parties could not vote on a new deal even if they were inclined.
While Trump postponed his end-of-the-year trip to Florida, most lawmakers have left the capital ahead of the Christmas holiday. He tweeted Sunday morning that a wall would help stop drugs, gangs and criminal elements from entering the country.
With no signs of a deal, the Senate adjourned for the holidays Saturday afternoon and made no plans to return until Thursday, ensuring that the shutdown will drag on for at least several more days. Mulvaney said federal paychecks would go out Dec. 28, but that the paychecks scheduled Jan. 11 would be affected.
"This is what having a president who is nontraditional, who’s a different kind of president looks like," Mulvaney said. "He is not going to be an ordinary president, and that's not what people wanted when they elected him."
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the outgoing chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN’s "State of the Union" that the shutdown was “unnecessary” and “juvenile” because both parties want to work on immigration issues.
Corker noted that Democrats and Republicans supported legislation to provide $25 billion for border security while also dealing with young immigrants who arrived with parents who entered the country illegally. The legislation wasn't ultimately approved. But in contrast, Corker said the shutdown fight is over much less.
"This is a made-up fight," Corker said. "This is something that is unnecessary. It's a spectacle. And, candidly, it's juvenile."
The shutdown takes place during an especially chaotic time in the Trump administration, including the resignation Thursday of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, a plunging stock market and Trump attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
Mulvaney also told ABC's "This Week" that Trump "now realizes" that he "does not have the ability" to fire Powell. Mulvaney said Trump won't change the withdrawal plan for Syria, despite Mattis' resignation and objections from elsewhere within the administration.
"This is what Washington looks like when you have a president who refuses to go along to get along," he said.
Schumer blamed the shutdown on Trump’s “two-week temper tantrum” over border wall funding and said the Senate has no interest “in swindling American taxpayers for an unnecessary, ineffective and wasteful policy.”
“President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall, plain and simple,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said senators would be told when a vote was scheduled and that "negotiations will continue" in the meantime. The Senate next plans to meet Thursday for debate. The House has instructed lawmakers no votes are expected until at least Thursday.
At the White House, Trump canceled an end-of-the-year trip to Florida and huddled Saturday with his advisers and with a small group of GOP lawmakers to discuss border security but did not include any Democrats in the meeting. Among the Republicans who were invited were members of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has urged Trump not to abandon the fight for border wall funding.
“This is not about the wall for Democrats. It’s not even about immigration for Democrats,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who was invited to the meeting. “This is about denying (Trump) a win on a signature agenda item that he promised the American people.”
The latest shutdown is the third one this year – and the third of Trump’s presidency – and was triggered just after midnight Friday when the budget standoff caused funding to lapse for nine federal departments and several smaller agencies. A quarter of the government shut down, and some 800,000 government employees were forced to go on furlough or work without pay.
Agencies affected include the FBI, Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Patrol and the IRS, as well as national parks and forests. In all, the nine departments affected are Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development.
The White House said federal employees in those departments would be paid for days worked before the shutdown began. The pay period ended on Saturday, and those checks will go out on Dec. 28. Employees deemed “essential” and forced to work during the shutdown will be paid once federal funds start flowing again, the Trump administration said, although that would require congressional action.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes negotiations continue – primarily at the staff level – in an attempt to break the funding impasse and end the shutdown.
On Saturday, Trump turned to one of his favorite forums – Twitter – to reiterate his case for a border wall, which he vowed repeatedly during his presidential campaign would be paid for by Mexico.
“The crisis of illegal activity at our Southern Border is real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall. Let work begin!” he wrote in one message.
A few minutes later, he tweeted again, “I won an election, said to be one of the greatest of all time, based on getting out of endless & costly foreign wars & also based on Strong Borders which will keep our Country safe. We fight for the borders of other countries, but we won’t fight for the borders of our own!”
The House has passed a bill that includes $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including a wall. But the proposal is stalled in the Senate and cannot pass without the support of Democrats.