As the deadline looms to come up with a plan to save the U.S. from another partial government shutdown, the White House signaled that the possibility of a closure was still "on the table" while a stall in negotiations was reported over the weekend.
Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, said on Fox News Sunday that a "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."
The statement came after anchor Chris Wallace told Mulvaney that Democratic lawmakers were reportedly so far setting aside only about a third of the $5.7 billion amount President Donald Trump has demanded for a wall along the border with Mexico.
Funding for that wall -- Trump's top campaign promise during the 2016 election when he vowed Mexico would foot the bill for it -- was the sticking point in budget negotiations that led to the weeks-long shutdown of the federal government. The president had agreed to reopen the government for three weeks while the White House and lawmakers work on a deal, but the clock is ticking and will ring on Feb. 15.
Mulvaney at first said he didn't know what Democrats were proposing after Wallace said that the amount discussed was between $1.3 billion and $2 billion.
"The president is going to build a wall," said Mulvaney during the interview. "That's our attitude at this point, which is we'll take as much money as you can give us, and then we'll go off and find the money someplace else, legally, in order to secure that Southern (border). But, this is going to get built, with or without congress."
"So, you're saying, then," asked Wallace, if lawmakers agree on $2 billion "he will sign that bill, and then try to find more money?"
"I'm not saying whether the president will or won't sign," said Mulvaney, "because keep in mind, there are a lot of things that don't get discussed, which is what's in the bill.... There are going to be a lot of different moving pieces."
Meanwhile, it was widely reported that budget talks had broken down.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said on Fox News Sunday that "we are not to a point where we can announce a deal, negotiations are still going on," but that he has "confidence" that a deal will be put together soon.
Just moments later, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told Wallace that "I think that talks are stalled" right now, noting problems over how detentions of immigrants should be handled. But, he said, "we're hoping we can get there" and that a shutdown "should be off the table."
But also on Fox, Mulvaney implied a plan B would allow the president to gain access to "certain funds" to shore up the cash needed to build a wall. "There are certain funds he can get to without declaring a national emergency and other funds that he can only get to after declaring a national emergency," he said.
When Wallace pressed him on how much the president could get without declaring an emergency, Mulvaney avoided answering and said that the "whole pot is well north of $5.7 billion."
Over Twitter Sunday, Trump threw more uncertainty into the status of negotiations, posting that, "I don't think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!"
This story has been updated.