Updated at 12:07 p.m. ET
On the 34th day of the partial government shutdown, there are some small signs of movement between congressional Democrats and the White House that could conceivably end the standoff between the two sides.
Or maybe not.
House Democratic leaders were said to be considering a proposal that would fund increased security measures at the border but not the wall that President Trump has been demanding.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., threw cold water on the idea at a Thursday morning news conference, saying it’s not true that Democrats are engaging in behind-the-scenes planning on an offer.
She said Democrats are working on the regular appropriations bill for the next fiscal year, which could contain additional money for border security.
Meanwhile, the Senate has scheduled votes for Thursday afternoon on two plans to reopen the government. One, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would allocate money for the wall and provide funding to reopen the government. The other, offered by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would reopen the government for three weeks while negotiations over the border wall continued. Neither plan is expected to receive the 60 votes necessary to pass.
Top Democrats and their aides had told reporters about a proposal that would outline the mutual border security priorities for President Trump and members of Congress but would include no new funding for any wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., declined to offer specifics about what is being worked out by Pelosi and the House Homeland Security Committee, but he said Democrats are prepared to make an offer that includes significant new spending on border measures.
“We are prepared to spend a very substantial sum of money because we share the view that the border needs to be secure,” Hoyer said. “The letter is going to articulate what we believe is an effective investment to accomplish border security.”
Trump wants $5.7 billion for the wall, and the Democrats’ proposal could exceed that amount.
Appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition, White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp did not immediately rule the idea out. “Why don’t we have the Democrats come over and propose that over to the president?” she said. “What we need is a conversation.”
But it’s not clear whether Trump would sign off on the offer.
Some 800,000 federal employees will miss their second paycheck this week because of the shutdown. Many have been visiting food pantries set up in several cities.
In an interview on CNBC on Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, “I don’t quite understand why” federal workers are going to food banks, suggesting they apply for loans to make ends meet until they receive back pay. “There is really not a good excuse” for why the affected workers face what Ross termed “a liquidity crisis.”
Five former secretaries of homeland security, including John Kelly, Trump’s first secretary who also served as chief of staff, wrote a letter to Congress and the president urging them to end the shutdown.
“DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand,” the secretaries wrote. “This is unconscionable.”