Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned on 'Fox News Sunday' that "a government shutdown is technically still on the table." A bipartisan conference committee has until Friday to come up with a deal that the president will sign on border security.
Transcript via FOX News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Apparently the number that congressional negotiators are talking about is somewhere between $1.3 billion and $2 billion of the most. In any case, less than half the $5.7 billion the president wants for new border barriers. Will the president sign a deal at that number?
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have to laugh because I’ve heard those numbers. I’ve also heard zero for a border barrier or wall. $800 million was a number I’ve heard. I’ve also heard 2.5 or 2.6 and I’m looking forward to actually watching the interview after I’m off of this show because I just don't know where the Democrats are, and I think that's a reflection, Chris, of where their party is.
I don't think they know where they stand on this particular issue and that's one of the reasons I think we're having difficulty coming to a deal. To answer your question, the president is going to build the wall. You saw what the vice president said there and that's our attitude at this point, which is, we’ll take as much money as you can give us and then we will go off and find the money someplace else legally in order to secure that southern barrier. But this is going to get built with or without Congress.
WALLACE: OK. So, I want to unpack because you set a lot of stuff there. You're saying he will take whatever congressional negotiators give me. You are saying then if they agree -- let's take the numbers that's been mostly reported -- $2 billion, he will sign a bill and then try to find more money?
MULVANEY: A couple different things, I’m not saying what the president will or won't sign because keep in mind, there's a lot of things that don't get discussed, which is what else is in the bill. You could give a number that the president might like but take away something he doesn't like.
I was talking with Senator Shelby. I understand a new issue has come up in the last couple of hours that he's going to discuss with you in a couple of minutes regarding detention beds. So, there's going to be a lot of different moving pieces. So I’m not in a position to say the president will absolutely sign or will not sign.
Here's what we do know: the president has to sign a piece of legislation in order to keep the government open. He cannot sign anything that they put in front of him -- excuse me, he cannot sign everything they put in front of him. There’ll be some things that simply we couldn't agree to. So the government shutdown is technically still on the table. We do not want it to come to that, but that option is still open to the president and will remain so.
WALLACE: I want to pick up because the president tweeted, we’ll build the wall one way or the other and as you pointed out, Mike Pence has also said that over the weekend.
What does that mean? Let's say you get $2 billion from the Congress and you agree to that, can he repurpose money that Congress has appropriated for other purposes and spend that on the wall, or does he have to declare a national emergency?
MULVANEY: The answer to the question is yes and no. Yes, there are other funds of money that are available to him through what we call reprogramming. There is money that he can get at and is legally allowed to spend.
And I think it needs to be said again and again: all of this is going to be legal. There are statutes on the books as to how any president can do this.
WALLACE: And he can do that without declaring a national emergency?
MULVANEY: There are certain funds of money he can get to without declaring a national emergency, and other funds that he can only get to after declaring a national emergency.