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Trump Signs Spending Bill, Setting Up High-Stakes Oval Office Showdown

President will meet Tuesday morning with Pelosi and Schumer

Junior, a migrant from Honduras, waves the American flag while standing with other migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on November 25, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Junior, a migrant from Honduras, waves the American flag while standing with other migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on November 25, 2018 in Tijuana, Mexico. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump signed a two-week spending measure Friday that will avert a partial government shutdown, setting up a high-stakes meeting with congressional Democratic leaders who are opposed to his $5 billion border wall funding demand.

The House Appropriations Committee — not the White House — announced in a tweet that the Homeland Security Department and other unfunded agencies would not shut down later Friday. White House press aides had been unable to clearly state when their boss would put pen to paper.

Both chambers approved temporary appropriations Thursday for nine Cabinet departments and dozens of smaller agencies through Dec. 21, including the Homeland Security Department.

Top members of the chambers’ Appropriations panels say there is enough agreement to pass the other spending measures but the DHS measure — because of the southern border barrier impasse — is the sticking point.

[Congress Passes Two-Week Funding Extension to Avert Shutdown]

Trump is scheduled to host House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., for a meeting on the dispute Tuesday morning. The president wants $5 billion this fiscal year, pitched earlier this year by a House spending committee. Democrats say they will not provide the needed votes for anything beyond the $1.6 billion figure approved earlier this year by the Senate – for fencing rather than a concrete wall preferred by the president.

White House officials, eager to let the president negotiate on his own, have declined to say whether he might seek a middle-ground figure when he hosts the duo known colloquially as “Chuck and Nancy” in the Oval Office next week.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday her preference would be to complete the six outstanding appropriations measures other than the DHS bill, and punt a fight over border security into next year under a homeland continuing resolution that would span the entire fiscal year. And Schumer urged the president to negotiate rather than force all the agencies to close before the holidays over $3.4 billion.

But the border barrier was perhaps Trump’s biggest 2016 campaign promise. His supporters almost always break out into “Build that wall!” chants during his raucous campaign rallies.

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“Could somebody please explain to the Democrats (we need their votes) that our Country losses 250 Billion Dollars a year on illegal immigration, not including the terrible drug flow. Top Border Security, including a Wall, is $25 Billion. Pays for itself in two months. Get it done!” the president tweeted Tuesday.

But the chances of a continued impasse even after the Oval Office powwow are high.

“If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” Schumer said Thursday. “But there are two sensible options on the table to avoid one.”

Stan Collender, a former House and Senate Budget Committee aide, says the two-week bridge makes a partial shutdown “far less likely.”

“The new deadline is just four days away from Christmas,” he wrote on his blog. “Not only will representatives and senators hate being in Washington over the holiday while a resolution of the shutdown is attempted, the bad media from furloughing federal employees and the damage it might do to the economy will be much more intense than it would have been had the shutdown occurred in the middle of December.”

Jennifer Shutt and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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