WASHINGTON — Five days ahead of the latest funding deadline, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that he “absolutely cannot” rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement that includes substantial funding for a border wall.
Mulvaney blamed the uncertainty on congressional Democrats, arguing that the party appears torn between the “hardcore, left wing” that sees any funding for President Trump’s signature border wall as a non-starter, and a more moderate faction that appears open to compromise.
“Let’s say the hardcore, left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in this negotiation and they put a bill on the president’s desk with, say, zero money for the wall, or $800 million, an absurdly low number. How does he sign that?” Mulvaney told “Meet the Press.”
“You cannot take a shutdown off the table and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table,” he added of Trump’s initial price tag for the wall.
But he said that the “most likely outcome” is that Congress strikes a deal palatable enough to win the president’s signature.
RELATED: 6 ways government shutdowns hurt you
6 ways government shutdowns hurt you
What Happens During a Government Shutdown?
When a spending bill expires before Congress passes a new bill authorizing spending, the federal government shuts down most operations.
With spending stuck in limbo while all parties come to an agreement, the federal government runs out of money, forcing the closure.
During a government shutdown, essential services carry on. These include national security, law enforcement, emergency medical services, air traffic control and more.
But services considered non-essential stop, which can still affect your everyday life.
5 Things That Could be Tough During a Government Shutdown
Each government shutdown is different, but here are some things that could become more difficult or impossible if federal operations are forced to go on hold.
1. Planning a Trip to a National Park or Monument
You can’t go to a national park or monument during a shutdown — they’ll be closed. This includes national zoos and museums, too. According to Vox, the 2013 government shutdown cost $500 million in lost tourism income due to national park closures.
(Photo: Zion National Park; Getty)
2. Getting a Passport
During the last shutdown, the State Department continued passport and visa operations because those functions are funded by fees, not government spending.
We reached out to the National Passport Information Center back in April when the possibility of a shutdown loomed. The representative we spoke to said it’s unclear how a present-day shutdown would affect services, adding that multiple factors go into determining whether you’ll still be able to obtain a passport during a shutdown.
3. Using Free School Lunch Programs
Free school lunch programs will continue during a government shutdown — as long as it doesn’t last too long. If a shutdown goes on for an extended period, school districts might run out of funds to provide the free meals — as some districts worried would occur during the 2013 shutdown.
(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
4. Signing up for New Social Security Benefits
Social Security benefits will continue going out to existing enrollees, but new applications for benefits may have to wait until after the shutdown to be processed.
5. Buying a Home
If you were planning to use a federal loan, like a Federal Housing Administration-insured loan or a Veterans Affairs loan, to purchase a house, the agencies will still process it — depending on a few factors.
During the 2013 government shutdown, the FHA released an FAQ stating it would still process single-family loans, though it warned that it could take extra time because of a reduced staff. Delays could occur for other reasons, like if you need to obtain documents from the IRS.
Are you a veteran? Thankfully, it’s unlikely that a shutdown would affect your VA loans.
6. Your Tax Refund
And, perhaps, the worst of all, depending on the time of year: If you’re waiting for a tax refund from the IRS and the government shuts down, you’ll have to wait until it reopens to get your money.
“If you end up someplace in the middle, yes, then what you’ll probably see is the president say, ‘Yes, okay. And then I’ll go find the money someplace else'” to fully fund a wall.
Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that “talks are stalled” and that there’s a “50/50 chance” that Congress can reach a deal to avoid shutting the government down for the second time in two months.
The wall remains the largest sticking point in these negotiations. Trump still says the wall is necessary. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far held firm on her party’s opposition to its funding.
And a senior Democratic aide told NBC that there are other major debates yet to be solved, including a Democratic push to trade funding for new border barriers for a limit on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s detention beds as a way to push back at the administration’s border policies.
Republicans and Democrats have until Feb. 15 to find an agreement thanks to last month’s deal that lifted the historic 35-day partial shutdown.
Even if Congress ultimately passes something Trump supports, Mulvaney described any deal as the beginning not the end, of Trump’s efforts to build the wall he believes is necessary to secure America’s southern border. One option that’s been floated by the president and his allies is declaring a national emergency to secure the funding, but it’s unclear whether that would survive a legal challenge.
“The president really does believe that there is a national security crisis and a humanitarian crisis at the border, and he will do something about it. So whether or not he gets $1.6 billion from Congress, whether or not he gets $2.5 [billion] or $5.7 [billion], he’s going to do whatever he legally can to secure that border,” he said.
“There are pots of money where all presidents have access to without a national emergency. And there are ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.”
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