A possible partial government shutdown is looming with President Trump and congressional Democrats locked in a dispute over border security and no resolution in sight. Funding expires for a number of key government agencies on December 21 at midnight. There is still time to avert a shutdown, but the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement to keep the government open. 

The key sticking point is how much money Congress should allocate to the President’s long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.  President Trump has requested $5 billion to build the wall. However, Democrats are unwilling to agree to that and any spending bill needs bipartisan support to pass Congress.

If a shutdown takes places, it would be limited in scope because Congress has already funded approximately 75 percent of the federal government through September 2019, including the Pentagon and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor.

There are still seven spending bills that need to be passed and funding is set to expire on December 21 for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the Interior Department, the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other parts of the government.

Top House Republicans are at a standstill on exactly how to keep the government open next week.  Despite multiple rounds of talks on Wednesday, House GOP leaders have not been able to agree on a funding strategy, which involves billions of dollars for President Trump’s border wall.

The House was scheduled to leave Thursday for five days without offering a clue to how it would avoid a funding lapse for roughly a dozen agencies.  Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has cautioned members that they may need to come back Monday and Tuesday next week for a last-minute session on funding bills.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his deputies are discussing several spending tactics that would assert support for President Trump’s $5 billion wall request. However, those discussions would do nothing to resolve the standoff with Democrats that threaten a shutdown at midnight on December 21.

One option Speaker Ryan is considering is a short-term bill that fully funds President Trump’s $5 billion wall request but freezes the rest of federal spending through early 2019.

A broader full-year funding package also under discussion includes $5 billion for the border wall, as well as six other GOP-backed spending bills. But any House bill along these lines, even if it could pass, would almost certainly be rejected by Senate Democrats.  Meanwhile, GOP leaders have just over a week before one-quarter of the federal government shuts down.

Leadership is under pressure from the party’s right flank to vote on a $5 billion border wall after Tuesday’s exchange in the Oval Office, when Nancy Pelosi told President Trump that he does not have enough votes in the House to pass such a bill.