WASHINGTON — While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bluntly told President Donald Trump he wasn’t welcome there next week to give his State of the Union speech, other Democratic leaders Wednesday floated the idea of ending the partial government shutdown by giving Trump the $5.7 billion he demands for border security — as long as he doesn’t use it for a wall.
The House Democrats’ carrot-and-stick approach comes as the shutdown that has left 800,000 federal workers without pay hit its 33rd day and as the Senate prepares to vote today on competing bills to reopen the government — but that aren’t expected to accomplish that.
Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House said they were drafting an offer they likely will make to Trump in a letter. Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, said they could fulfill Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border security with technological tools such as drones, X-rays and sensors and more border agents.
Clyburn’s offer would be a significant monetary increase over bills previously passed by Democrats, which included about $1.3 billion for this year in additional border security, with none designated for a border wall.
“Using the figure the president put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” Clyburn said.
Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters the Democratic proposal could help.
“Any movement, any discussion is helpful,” Cole said. “We’ve got to get past this wall-or-no-wall debate.”
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Separately, 30 Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggesting she guarantee Trump a vote on — but not passage of — his border request if he reopens the government.
The battle over border security and government funding spilled over into a parallel dispute over the president’s State of the Union address.
Trump sent a letter Wednesday to Pelosi, saying he looked forward to delivering it as scheduled Tuesday in the House chamber.
Previously, Pelosi had asked Trump to consider postponing it because, she said, security could not be guaranteed during the partial shutdown.
But then Pelosi told Trump on Wednesday the House would not consider a measure authorizing his address until the shutdown ends. As speaker, the Democrat has the authority to turn off the lights and video feed in the chamber — and perhaps even order the president be blocked.
“Again, I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened,” she said in a letter.
A visibly frustrated president said he would find some “alternative.”
“Nancy Pelosi or Nancy, as I call her, she doesn’t want to know the truth,” Trump said to reporters at the White House. “I think that’s a great blotch on the great country we all love.”
In a sign Trump may be bracing for a long shutdown, a senior administration official said agencies without funding had been asked to give the White House a list of programs that could be hurt “within the coming weeks” if the funding lapse continues.
The Senate, controlled by Republicans, planned votes today on competing bills that face steep odds.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans a vote on a Democratic proposal to fund the government for three weeks but does not include $5.7 billion for a wall on the border.
Its prospects appear grim. The House has passed several similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include the wall.
McConnell also plans to hold a vote on legislation that would include wall funding and a temporary extension of protections for “Dreamers,” people brought illegally to the United States as children, an offer Trump made Saturday.
But Trump’s 2017 plan to rescind protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” has been blocked by the courts, making the offer even less attractive to Democrats who already had dismissed it.
Reuters, the Los Angeles Times and Roll Call contributed.