Trump Downplays Shutdown Possibility After Democrats Win House

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump backed away from threats to partly shut down the U.S. government in December to secure funding for a border wall with Mexico, suggesting a deal with congressional Democrats could avert a closure.

Trump said at a news conference Wednesday that a shutdown is "not necessarily" on the table although "it’s possible" after elections a day earlier in which Democrats won control of the House from the GOP.

"We’re just going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “We’re going to be fighting for it.”

"I speak to Democrats all the time and they agree that a wall is necessary," Trump said. "We want to build the whole wall at one time, not in chunks."

Trump made securing the U.S. border with Mexico a top issue during his campaign and presidency, saying it’s vital to ensure U.S. security and prevent criminals from entering the country. In previous statements, Trump had said a "good shutdown" may be necessary to force Democrats to agree to spend up to $23 billion on a border wall.

Senate Republicans and Democrats have proposed spending $1.6 billion on a wall this year while House Republicans and the White House have pushed for $5 billion.

Democrats have opposed the wall as costly, ineffective and a symbol of hatred toward Latinos. They have also indicated that they could support funding it as part of a deal that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation and provides them with a path to citizenship.

If the government shuts down after the current temporary funding bill expires on Dec. 7, the effects would be limited. Most of federal government agencies are funded through the end of the fiscal year next September, including the large departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services.

Trump’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that “hopefully we will not be headed down that path," toward a shutdown.

“We need to work this out,” he said.

Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 3 GOP leader in the House, on Tuesday declined to comment on whether a fight over wall funding could prompt a shutdown.

"This is a national security issue," he said.

Trump indicated an immigration deal could be on the table involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, an Obama-era program Trump discontinued that shielded young immigrants from deportation.

"I think we could really do something related to DACA," Trump said.

In the event of a shutdown, most Internal Revenue Service employees would be furloughed since December is outside of tax filing season as would employees at the Environmental Protection Agency. Much enforcement activity at Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission will be put on hold. Unless Interior Department funding is agreed on before December, national parks would be closed.

Most of the Justice Department is considered essential, limiting the impact on the agency. The State Department would continue to issue passports.

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