White House Not Shooting Down Possible Shutdown-Ending Deal

Sanders sharply attacks Schumer after ‘Jell-O’ remark about Trump

A "Restricted Area Do Not Enter" sign is on the barricades in front of the White House fence to help deter fence jumpers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials on Monday did not signal opposition to a possible deal among senators that could lead to the end of a government shutdown that has bled into the workweek.

After negotiating all day with a bipartisan group of 20 senators, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Sunday night announced a commitment to take up legislation related to the legal status of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants, or DACA, program as well as border security after the expiry of the next stopgap spending bill (assuming there’s not another shutdown). That came as he pushed back from 1 a.m. to noon Monday a vote on a three-week government funding bill.

President Donald Trump spent the first two days of the shutdown, as well as Friday, hunkered down in the White House. He has not had any members over for shutdown talks since Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., left the Oval Office Friday afternoon thinking he and Trump had the beginnings of a deal worked out. The White House, however, backed out a few hours later.

[House GOP to Senate: You Can’t Bind Us]

The White House dispatched several senior aides Monday morning to make the rounds on television morning shows. They did not hide their frustrations with Schumer and other Democrats, but they chose their words carefully when asked about the possible compromise and the odds of the government reopening as soon as Monday afternoon.

Watch: McConnell Opens Senate With Pitch for Passing Feb. 8 CR

 Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” program if she is confident the federal government will re-open on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied: “I sure hope so.”

But she also accused Schumer of “playing games” over DACA and government funding. She reiterated the White House stance that it will resume immigration talks once the government is funded and operating. Sanders also was asked to respond to this charge Schumer made on Saturday: “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”

If members are still unclear what Trump and White House officials want when it comes to DACA and a broader immigration overhaul bill, “then I think sometimes they’re not paying attention,” Sanders said.

“I know that sometimes members like Sen. Schumer need a little help and guidance getting through big policy negotiations like that,” she said, taking a hard swipe at the veteran lawmaker. Asked if it is wise to make such a statement about someone with whom the White House is negotiating, she replied: “I think, frankly and sadly, that Senator Schumer is playing games.”

“He wants to make it like this is the president’s fault and that the president hasn’t been anything but clear. And he has,” Trump’s top spokeswoman said, referring to a lengthy list of immigration demands the White House released in October.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short appeared later on CNN, alleging that Senate Democrats orchestrated a “manufactured shutdown” over an unrelated issue (DACA).

[Amid Shutdown, White House Says Senate Democrats ‘Out of Control’]

He contended White House-congressional negotiators had made “significant progress” on DACA and immigration matters before the shutdown started Saturday, saying Democrats were willing to fund “physical” border barriers while White House and Republicans had agreed to expand work permits under DACA.

He and Sanders repeated the White House stance that the government must be fired back up before those immigration-DACA talks will begin again. Short lashed out at Senate Democrats for shuttering the government to appease the far left among their base, saying military funding and border security monies are being “held hostage” by that group because the “base of their party is upset about all the progress we made last year.”

Minutes after Short uttered those words, Trump, an avid viewer of cable news — especially in the mornings — fired off a tweet echoing his legislative affairs chief.

Meantime, the lone item on Trump’s public schedule for Monday is an 11 a.m. intelligence briefing.

White House aides say he will remain “engaged” in negotiations aimed at ending the shutdown. In 2013, however, citizen Trump called on then-President Barack Obama to get members in a room and find a way to end a shutdown then.

Sanders defended Trump’s phone-based approach, saying “different circumstances call for a different kind of leadership.”

— David Lerman contributed to this report.

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