Inside the White House, the Trump team is increasingly aware that the president is trapped.
Facing a Republican Party unwilling to back another government shutdown or a national emergency declaration to build his border wall, President Donald Trump is in an unfamiliar position, according to multiple White House officials and lawmakers: prepared, potentially, to accept a compromise foisted on him by Congress.
Only a few days ago, Trump called a committee tasked with hammering out a border-security deal “a waste of time.”
But he seemed warm to the idea of a bipartisan deal on Thursday after he met with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Shelby later briefed Senate Republicans on their meeting at a party lunch, which left them hopeful the president would be willing to support something that gives him more money for fencing — even if it isn’t the $5.7 billion he’s been seeking, said one attendee.
“He’ll consider any kind of reasonable proposition … there’s a general openness,” said Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a vulnerable GOP senator who stuck by Trump amid the politically debilitating 35-day shutdown. “He’s obviously going to fulfill his campaign promise, and there’s got to be some earnest progress. It’s not like he’s going to acquiesce. But I do believe he’s showing good faith.”
“They intentionally have not set a firm number,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a conference committee member. “And I think that’s to show their willingness to negotiate, so that’s good.”
Though the White House has worked to prepare an emergency declaration invoking the president’s sweeping executive powers, several West Wing aides have warned that invoking it would alienate some conservatives who have otherwise been loyal to the White House.
Lawmakers and activists on the right have been critical allies of the president on judicial nominations and have stressed that an emergency declaration could set a precedent for a future Democratic president to take far-reaching action on climate change or gun violence.