Washington: Donald Trump appeared determined on Tuesday to score key victories to mark his first 100 days as president, as he seeks to boost border security, unveil tax reform plans and avert a government shutdown.
With the government set to exhaust its current funding at midnight on Friday, Trump's White House is under the gun to craft a compromise that would keep the government running while not appearing to cave to the president's demand that Congress fund a wall on the border with Mexico.
Trump had been on a collision course with lawmakers over the wall, demanding that Congress include funding in its new spending bill to start construction.
Democrats blasted the approach, warning that Republicans risked being on the hook for shuttering the government barely three months into the new administration.
With jitters rippling through Washington, Trump has apparently agreed to soften his demand just days before a Friday deadline for passing a new spending bill.
He told a group of conservative journalists he was open to delaying funding for the wall's construction until September, a White House official said, according to The Washington Post.
"It's good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations. Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in response.
Instead of a wall, lawmakers are expressing support for funding a broader set of security measures along the southern border, including the use of drones and other high technology.
"I think he'll probably get a down payment on border security generally," Republican Senator Rob Portman told reporters.
"If we want to talk about a combination of all of the above, including technology, walls you can see through, potentially low-level radar, all those things, then I think we can work together in a bipartisan way to get something done," added Senate Democrat Jon Tester.
Building the wall was Trump's signature campaign promise, but Democrats are quick to point out that Trump had pledged that Mexico would pay for it.
Even as the White House appeared to soften its rigid posture, Trump sent a mixed message on Tuesday.
"Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc," he said on Twitter.
Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2017
Despite the short time frame for must-pass funding legislation, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that the administration remained "very confident" that a spending deal will be reached by the end of Friday.
'Flirting' with shutdown
Congress, returning from a two-week break, now has four days to strike a deal. Lawmakers have warned that a stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, might be needed to give Congress breathing room to finalise the spending details.
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan said that while he supports Trump's efforts to secure the border, he would rather see a short-term CR passed than endure a shutdown showdown.
"What I certainly don't think we need to be doing is flirting with shutting down the government," he said.
With the 100-day mark landing on Saturday and few legislative victories under his belt, Trump is pressing to fulfil another campaign pledge.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly vowed to reform the tax code and slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. An announcement on such reforms is due Wednesday, according to Trump, and all eyes will be on the tax rates the White House proposes and their impact on the national debt.
Conservatives have sought a reduction in US tax rates for years, but they are also adamant about reducing the debt. Some Republicans appeared hesitant to embrace such a deep cut in corporate tax rates.
"Fifteen percent might be too low," House Republican Leonard Lance told CNN.
Trump floated the prospect of re-introducing a modified health care plan that repeals Obamacare after the original bill crashed and burned last month. But it appeared increasingly unlikely that such a plan would be debated this week.
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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 21:50:23 IST