Mexico City, Dec 25 (AP/UNB) — A husband-and-wife political power couple who were the current and ex-governors of the central Mexican state of Puebla died in a Christmas Eve helicopter crash, officials announced.
Mexico's political class was stunned by the deaths of Gov. Martha Erika Alonso and ex-Gov. Rafael Moreno Valle, a prominent figure in the opposition National Action Party who had vied unsuccessfully for the party's presidential nomination and its internal leadership. He was currently a federal senator for the party.
Two pilots and a third passenger also died.
The Agusta 109 helicopter fell about 10 minutes after taking off from a heliport within the city of Puebla on a flight to Mexico City.
It crashed in the municipality of Santa Maria Coronango, which is about 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometers) north of the city's main airport on the western outskirts, federal Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo told a news conference.
Images of the crash showed a shattered, still smoldering aircraft on the edge of a scorched patch of cornfield.
Both federal and state officials said they had opened investigations into the cause — a potentially sensitive case because President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's Morena party had challenged the validity of Alonso's election in July. She was sworn in 10 days ago after independent electoral authorities dismissed the challenge.
State spokesman Maximiliano Cortazar demanded a "transparent, impartial and independent" investigation.
Lopez Obrador expressed his "deepest condolences" via Twitter to the family of on Monday evening.
Moreno Valle governed the central state from 2011 to 2017 and was currently a federal senator. Opponents alleged that he had manipulated the election to hand power to his wife.
Government agencies and scores of officials, including former President Enrique Pena Nieto, also expressed condolences via statements and social media.
Washington, Dec 24 (AP/UNB) — A top White House official signaled Sunday that President Donald Trump is willing to accept less money than he's been demanding to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, but a senior congressional Democrat said that, while their own offer could be sweetened, they still will not agree to a wall.
The back and forth across the television airwaves did little to inspire hope that a Christmas season closure of some federal government operations would end later this week, when the House and Senate are scheduled to meet again.
In fact, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned that the shutdown could stretch into January, when a new Congress is seated.
Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, said he's awaiting a response from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York after the administration on Saturday presented Schumer with a counteroffer in the long-running dispute over funding the wall.
Mulvaney withheld specifics but placed the offer at between Trump's $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats are offering.
"We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3," Mulvaney said.
The director's comment about the president's softening stance came less than 24 hours after a senior administration official insisted to reporters on Saturday that Congress give into Trump's demands, highlighting the unpredictable nature of Trump's negotiating style.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued instead for increasing the use of technology along the border instead of building "some medieval wall."
Asked whether he's willing to increase the price tag as long as the money is not spent on a wall, Durbin responded: "Absolutely."
A stalemate over the wall led parts of the government to shut down Saturday after funding for numerous departments and agencies expired. The closure, affecting hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country, was expected to last at least through late this week after the House and Senate, which each met in a rare weekend session, adjourned until Thursday.
Monday and Tuesday, Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively, are federal holidays, meaning the federal government would already be closed. Wednesday is the first day the public could begin to feel the effects of a shutdown, Mulvaney said.
He predicted it could extend into January, when Democrats will assume control of the House based on their midterm election gains.
"It's very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress," Mulvaney said.
Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, countered: "If Director Mulvaney says the Trump Shutdown will last into the New Year, believe him, because it's their shutdown."
Democrats held firm Sunday in opposition to a wall, which Trump promised his political base would build. Mulvaney said that "the president's not going to not accept money for a border wall."
Trump faced resistance from some Republicans. Retiring Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has criticized Trump on other issues, called the battle for border wall funding a "made-up fight so the president can look like he's fighting."
"This is something that is unnecessary. It's a spectacle. And, candidly, it's juvenile. The whole thing is juvenile," Corker said in arguing for real measures that he maintains will secure the border better than a wall.
Trump tweeted Sunday, the shutdown's second day, that what's needed is "a good old fashioned WALL that works," not aerial drones or other measures that "are wonderful and lots of fun" but not the answer to address drugs, gangs, human trafficking and other criminal elements entering the country.
Across the country, the shutdown played out in uneven ways. The Statue of Liberty remained open for tours, thanks to New York state, and the U.S. Postal Service, an independent agency, was still delivering mail.
But the routines of 800,000 federal employees were about to be disrupted. More than half are deemed essential and are expected to work without pay, through retroactive pay is expected. Another 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will not report to work but would be paid later. Legislation ensuring that workers receive back pay was expected to clear Congress.
Trump was staying in Washington for Christmas because of the shutdown, the White House said.
With Democrats set to take control of the House on Jan. 3, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., retiring from Congress, the shutdown provided a last gasp for the conservative majority before the new Congress.
Trump had savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall. He recently said he'd be "proud" to close down the government and has gone back on his pledge to not blame Democrats for the closure.
He had campaigned on the promise of building the wall and forcing Mexico to pay for it. Mexico has refused.
Schumer and Vice President Mike Pence met Saturday at the request of the White House, according to Schumer's office. But the senator's spokesman said they remained "very far apart" on a spending agreement.
Schumer said the "Trump shutdown" could end immediately if the president abandons the wall.
Democrats said they were open to proposals that didn't include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.
Senators approved a bipartisan deal earlier in the week to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for "caving" on a campaign promise, he pushed the House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall.
The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.
Those being furloughed included nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. Many national parks were expected to close.
The Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services are among those that Congress has fully funded and will operate as usual. Also still functioning were the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.
Transportation Security Administration officers continue to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers were on the job.
Mulvaney appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week." Durbin spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press" and Corker was interviewed on "State of the Union" on CNN.
Washington, Dec 23 (AP/UNB) — The federal government was expected to remain partially shut down past Christmas as the standoff deepened Saturday over President Donald Trump's demand for funds to build a border wall with Mexico.
With Trump's insistence on $5 billion for the wall and negotiations with Democrats in Congress far from a breakthrough, even a temporary measure to keep the government running while talks continued seemed out of reach until the Senate returned for a full session Thursday.
From coast to coast, the first day of the shutdown played out in uneven ways. The Statue of Liberty was still open for tours, thanks to funding from New York state, and the U.S. Post Office was still delivering mail, as an independent agency.
In Arizona, the Grand Canyon was remaining open with state funding, the governor said. But visitors arriving at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico could check out only the surface, not the underground cavern that is the park's main attraction. The memorial to Oklahoma City bombing victims was to continue to operate, but the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center at College Station, Texas, said its National Archives facilities were closed during the shutdown.
Yet the disruption affected many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and were expected to work unpaid. An additional 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay. The Senate had already passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay, and the House was likely to follow suit.
No one knew how long the closures would last. Unlike other shutdowns, this one seemed to lack urgency, coming during the long holiday weekend after Trump had already declared Monday, Christmas Eve, a federal holiday. Rather than work around the clock to try to end the shutdown, as they had done in the past, the leaders of the House and the Senate effectively closed up shop. But they didn't rule out action if a deal were struck.
"Listen, anything can happen," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after he closed the Senate's rare Saturday session hours after it opened.
But after ushering Vice President Mike Pence through the Capitol for another round of negotiations, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, said a quick end to the shutdown was "not probable."
At the White House, Trump hosted a lunch Saturday with conservative lawmakers, including House Freedom Caucus chiefs Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio, and several senators. Absent from the guest list were GOP leaders or any Democrats, who would be needed for a deal.
"I am in the White House, working hard," tweeted the president, who canceled his Florida holiday getaway to his club Mar-a-Lago due to the shutdown. First lady Melania Trump was flying back to Washington to be with her husband.
Trump's re-election campaign sent out a fundraising email late Saturday launching what he called "the most important membership program ever - the OFFICIAL BUILD THE WALL MEMBERSHIP." The president urged donors to sign up.
With Democrats set to take control of the House on Jan. 3, and Speaker Paul Ryan on his way out, the shutdown was providing a last gasp of the conservative majority before the new Congress.
Trump savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall for months. Last week he said he would be "proud" to close down the government. He had campaigned on the promise of building the wall, and he also promised Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused to do so.
In recent days, though, Trump tried to shift blame to Democrats for not acceding to his demand. He has given mixed messages on whether he would sign any bill into law.
After the luncheon at the White House, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "It's clear to me he believes the additional funding is necessary."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Pence on Saturday at the request of the White House, according to Schumer's office. But the senator's spokesman said they remained "very far apart" on a spending agreement.
Schumer said the "Trump shutdown" could end immediately if the president simply dropped his demand for money. "If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall," Schumer said.
Democrats said they were open to other proposals that didn't include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.
But Trump, digging in, tweeted about "the crisis of illegal activity" at American's southern border is "real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall."
Republican leaders largely stayed in the background of the negotiations. McConnell acknowledged that any deal to reopen government would require Democratic support for passage and the president's signature.
Senators approved a bipartisan deal earlier in the week to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for "caving" on a campaign promise, he pushed to House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall.
A test vote in the Senate on Friday showed that Republicans lacked the 60 votes needed to advance the House plan.
Pelosi, poised to become speaker, said in a letter to colleagues Saturday that "until President Trump can publicly commit to a bipartisan resolution, there will be no agreement before January when the new House Democratic Majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government."
The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.
Those being furloughed included nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service were to stay home; many parks were expected to close.
Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded and will operate as usual. Also still functioning were the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers continued to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers were on the job.
Many of Congress' most conservative Republicans welcomed such a confrontation, but most GOP lawmakers wanted to avoid one because polling showed the public opposed the wall and a shutdown over it.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, "This is a complete failure of negotiations and a success for no one."
Washington, Dec 23 (AP/UNB) — Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group, has resigned in protest over President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, joining Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security figures. McGurk described Trump's decision as a "shock."
Only 11 days ago, McGurk had said it would be "reckless" to consider IS defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring American forces home. McGurk decided to speed up his original plan to leave his post in mid-February.
"The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy," he said in an email to his staff viewed by The Associated Press. "It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered with no plan in place or even considered thought as to consequences."
Trump's announcement of the withdrawal "left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered with no plan in place or even considered thought as to consequences," the email went on.
Appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump, McGurk said in his resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the militants were on the run, but not yet defeated, and that the premature pullout of U.S. forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to IS.
The resignation letter to Pompeo was submitted Friday and described to the AP on Saturday by an official familiar with its contents. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly before the letter was released and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump played down the development, tweeting Saturday night that "I do not know" the envoy and it's a "nothing event." He noted McGurk planned to leave soon anyway and added: "Grandstander?"
Shortly after news of McGurk's resignation broke, Trump again defended his decision to pull all of the roughly 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria in the coming weeks.
"We were originally going to be there for three months, and that was seven years ago - we never left," Trump tweeted. "When I became President, ISIS was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We're coming home!"
Although the civil war in Syria has gone on since 2011, the U.S. did not begin launching airstrikes against IS until September 2014, and American troops did not go into Syria until 2015.
McGurk, whose resignation is effective Dec. 31, was planning to leave the job in mid-February after a U.S.-hosted meeting of foreign ministers from the coalition countries, but he felt he could continue no longer after Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria and Mattis' resignation.
In his email to his staff, McGurk said: "I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout, but — as many of you heard in my many meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity at the same time."
Trump's declaration of a victory over IS has been roundly contradicted by his own experts' assessments, and his decision to pull troops out was widely denounced by members of Congress, who called his action rash.
Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in the administration, announced on Thursday that he will leave by the end of February. He told Trump in a letter that he was departing because "you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours."
The withdrawal decision will fulfill Trump's goal of bringing troops home from Syria, but military leaders have pushed back for months, arguing that the IS group remains a threat and could regroup in Syria's long-running civil war. U.S. policy has been to keep troops in place until the extremists are eradicated.
Among officials' key concerns is that a U.S. pullout will leave U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces vulnerable to attacks by Turkey, the Syrian government and remaining IS fighters. The SDF, a Kurdish-led force, is America's only military partner in Syria
McGurk said at a State Department briefing on Dec. 11 that "it would be reckless if we were just to say, 'Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.'"
McGurk, 45, previously served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. During the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, he led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there.
McGurk was briefly considered for the post of ambassador to Iraq after having served as a senior official covering Iraq and Afghanistan during President George W. Bush's administration.
A former Supreme Court law clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, McGurk worked as a lawyer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and joined Bush's National Security Council staff, where in 2007 and 2008, he was the lead U.S. negotiator on security agreements with Iraq.
Taking over for now for McGurk will be his deputy, retired Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff, who served three tours of active duty in Iraq.
IS militants still hold a string of villages and towns along the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, where they have resisted weeks of attacks by the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces to drive them out. The pocket is home to about 15,000 people, among them 2,000 IS fighters, according to U.S. military estimates.
But that figure could be as high as 8,000 militants, if fighters hiding out in the deserts south of the Euphrates River are also counted, according to according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through networks of local informants.
Washington, Dec 22 (AP/UNB) — Democratic leaders say the government has shut down because President Donald Trump threw a "temper tantrum."
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi say Trump "has gotten what he wanted" after threatening a shutdown several times. The government partially shut down at midnight after an impasse between Trump and Congress over money for a border wall.
The Democrats say the wall is "ineffective and expensive," adding that Trump "convinced House Republicans to push our nation into a destructive Trump shutdown in the middle of the holiday season."
Trump, in turn, has blamed Democrats for the shutdown.
Pelosi and Schumer said if the standoff isn't resolved, Democrats will pass legislation to reopen the government when they take the House majority in January.
The government has partially shut down after President Donald Trump was unable to agree with Democratic and Republican lawmakers on spending for his border wall.
Government operations will be disrupted during the shutdown and hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas.
The shutdown comes after Vice President Mike Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner spent much of Friday on Capitol Hill trying to break the standoff.
Trump tried to pin the blame on Democrats for the impasse, even though just last week he said he would be "proud" to shut part of the government in a fight for the wall, which was a major promise of his presidential campaign.
White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney is instructing agencies "to execute plans for an orderly shutdown" when government funding lapses at midnight.
The partial government shutdown is expected after President Donald Trump wasn't able to agree with Democrats and Republicans in Congress over funding for his border wall with Mexico. Despite negotiations over the last 48 hours, they remain at an impasse.
Mulvaney says in a memo for government executives that "we are hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration" but that employees should report to work when scheduled to "undertake orderly shutdown activities."
Nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies will temporarily lose funding, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.
With a government shutdown just hours away, President Donald Trump is appealing to Democrats via video message — and blaming them for a standoff over money for his border wall.
Trump says in a Twitter video late Friday that "we're going to have a shutdown" and "there's nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes."
The message comes after Trump said he wouldn't sign legislation Republicans had written because it didn't include enough money for a wall on the border with Mexico. Republicans cede the House majority in January.
Trump says to "call it a Democratic shutdown, call it whatever you want" while also saying lawmakers need to work on a bipartisan basis.
He adds, "Hopefully the shutdown will not last long."
The Senate has adjourned without a deal on spending, an hour after the House ended its session, guaranteeing a partial government shutdown will begin at midnight Friday.
Senators expect to return at noon Saturday as talks continue.
Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials were on Capitol Hill late Friday trying to broker a compromise as President Donald Trump pushes for $5 billion in border wall funding, a proposal Democrats staunchly oppose.
Without a deal, funding for about 25 percent of the government expires at midnight.
Nine Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, will be affected by the shutdown
The House has adjourned without a deal on spending, virtually guaranteeing a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.
Senators are also being told there will be no further votes Friday as talks continue.
President Donald Trump's team was on Capitol Hill late Friday trying to broker a compromise as he pushes for billions of dollars in border wall funding.
Without a deal, funding for parts of the government will expire at midnight.
Lawmakers from both parties say they will continue negotiating to prevent a midnight partial government shutdown as they seek agreement on measures to secure the U.S-Mexico border.
With the help of a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, the Senate kept alive a bill that would provide billions in funding for President Donald Trump's border wall.
But the Senate did not take up the bill amid widespread recognition that it was unlikely to pass. Instead, lawmakers said leaders of the House and Senate from both parties will negotiate with the White House to reach agreement.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona voted to advance the House-passed bill, but said there was no path forward for it in the Senate.
Prospects for agreement were murky amid Democratic opposition to Trump's demand for more than $5 billion for the wall.
Vice President Mike Pence has cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to advance legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown and provide funding for President Donald Trump's border wall.
Pence's vote advanced the 47-47 tally Friday after a marathon, five-hour voting session in the Senate that dragged on as senators rushed back to Washington.
The move doesn't immediately end the threat of a partial federal shutdown at midnight Friday. But it kick-starts negotiations as Congress tries to find a resolution to Trump's demand for the wall.
Senators say they won't vote on a final bill to fund the government until Trump and congressional leaders all agree to a deal.
The threat of a partial government shutdown may be keeping President Donald Trump at the White House, but his wife has left the building.
Stephanie Grisham, the spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump, says it's the family's longtime tradition to spend Christmas at their waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate. Grisham says the first lady didn't change her plans to travel to Florida on Friday with their son, 12-year-old Barron, during his winter break from school.
The president had planned to join his wife and son. But the White House said Trump would stay in Washington if parts of the government are forced to shut down at midnight Friday.
Trump and congressional leaders are in a stalemate over his demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Vice President Mike Pence is making the rounds on Capitol Hill ahead of a midnight deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.
Pence, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer before heading across the Capitol to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Schumer reminded them that any proposal with wall funding will not pass the Senate, a spokesman for the senator said. Schumer also said two proposals that Democrats offered Trump last week remain on the table. A third offer is the package the Senate approved this week. All three continue funding for border security at current levels, $1.3 billion, without wall funds.
The spokesman for Schumer was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.
Parts of the government will shut down late Friday without a deal.
Vice President Mike Pence has arrived at the Capitol in case he is needed to break a tie on a procedural measure to avert a partial government shutdown.
The Senate has been stuck in a holding pattern as senators slowly return to the Capitol from out of town.
A Senate vote began about 12:30 p.m. Eastern time and was still open more than three hours later, with a partial tally of 46 against and 44 in favor. The measure would allow the Senate to take up a House-passed bill that would pay for President Donald Trump's border wall and avert a partial shutdown at midnight.
Two senators, Republican Jim Risch of Idaho and Democrat Jon Tester of Montana, flew in on the same plane and voted on opposite sides — Risch in favor, Tester against.
It's the "Senate Cranky Coalition."
That's according to a campaign-style button Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showed reporters Friday as a federal shutdown over President Donald Trump's border wall loomed.
McConnell was exiting the Senate chamber flocked by reporters with questions about the standoff.
The usually stone-faced McConnell paused. He asked an aide for the button.
"This is the largest part of my conference right now," he chuckled, showing the cartoon-style moose and the slogan.
He said it's "the unanimous position of the Senate Republican conference at the moment."
Senators were recalled back to Washington to vote on a package that includes Trump's border wall money, but it was expected to fail ahead of Friday's deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown
President Donald Trump says the government is "totally prepared for a very long shutdown" as he digs in his heels over border wall money and tries to lay the blame on Democrats.
Trump just last week said that he'd "own" the partial government shutdown that will begin Friday at midnight if a deal isn't reached.
Trump has now changed his tune, saying at a bill signing Friday that it's "totally up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown."
Trump, who was supposed to leave Washington on Friday to spend the holiday in Florida, says he thinks the chances "are probably very good" that a shutdown will happen.
He adds: "I hope we won't. But we're totally prepared for a very long shutdown."
The Senate has begun a procedural vote to take up a House-passed bill that would pay for President Donald Trump's border wall and avert a partial government shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged approval of the bill, which includes $5.7 billion Trump wants for the southern border with Mexico.
McConnell says the bill is neither "radical" nor difficult to explain. Instead he said it addresses a crisis at the border that includes illegal drug smuggling and increased apprehensions of people trying to cross illegally into the U.S. from Mexico.
McConnell, who met with Trump Friday at the White House, said in a Senate speech that "this legislation would be quite uncontroversial in a more normal political moment."
He blamed "far-left" Democrats for opposing the spending package approved by House Republicans and supported by Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is resisting President Donald Trump's call to change Senate rules in order to pass a spending bill that would pay for Trump's border wall with Mexico.
Trump says McConnell should seek a rule change that lowers the threshold for ending Senate debate on legislation from 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to 51. A simple majority is currently used for judicial and executive nominations but does not apply to most legislation.
Trump tweets that McConnell should "use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!"
McConnell has previously resisted Trump's calls for a rule change, and a spokesman is reiterating McConnell's opposition.
GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch also say they oppose the rules change.
President Donald Trump is meeting with Republican senators as a midnight deadline approaches to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Among the senators who have gone to the White House are Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The goal is to try to resolve a standoff that threatens to shut down about 25 percent of the government.
Trump has tweeted that a government closure could drag on "for a very long time" and he's trying to blame congressional Democrats if no deal is reached on his demand for $5 billion for a border wall with Mexico.
President Donald Trump is saying that if Senate Democrats don't go along with his demand for border wall money, "there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time."
And the White House is encouraging the Senate's Republican leader to change the chamber's rules in order to pass a government spending bill that includes billions for Trump's long-sought wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump would "love" for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to lower the Senate's threshold for ending debate on legislation from 60 votes to 51, as it currently stands for judicial appointments.
Trump, in a tweet aimed at McConnell, says: "Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!"
McConnell has previously resisted the rules change.
A week ago, President Donald Trump said he'd be "proud" to shut down the government if Congress, led by fellow Republicans, didn't give him the money he wanted for his long-promised border wall with Mexico.
Now, the government is heading toward a partial shutdown if a spending impasse isn't settled by midnight. And Trump is saying that if enough Senate Democrats don't go along with a House-passed plan that includes the border money, then it'll be a "Democrat Shutdown!"
And Trump is tweeting that the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, "should fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything."
But as it's shaping up, the plan is expected to fall short in the Senate.
Trump has bent to conservative pressure and overruled many advisers by backing away from a stopgap bill without the wall money that would have averted the looming shutdown.
The federal government is heading toward a partial shutdown by day's end over President Donald Trump's demand for money for a long-promised border wall with Mexico.
The Senate is being called back to session to consider a package approved by House Republicans. It includes $5.7 billion Trump wants for the southern border with Mexico. And it's probably going to be rejected by senators.
The White House says Trump won't travel to Florida on Friday as planned for Christmas if the government is shutting down. The deadline for a deal is at midnight.
More than 800,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay. The Department of Veterans Affairs and others agencies will operate as usual.
At issue is in the impasse is money for other departments, including Homeland Security, and for national parks.
Senators already passed their own short-term spending bill with border security money, but that plan provided no money for the wall.