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Paul Ryan

One option Speaker Paul Ryan and his deputies are considering is a short-term bill that fully funds Trump’s $5 billion wall request, but freezes the rest of federal spending through early 2019. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Congress

House Republicans are eager to give Trump his wall, but it’s not clear how they’ll get there amid low morale among departing GOP lawmakers.

Top House Republicans are at a standstill on exactly how to keep the government open next week amid mounting fears of a Christmastime shutdown on Capitol Hill.

House GOP leaders couldn’t agree on a funding strategy — which involves billions of dollars for President Donald Trump’s border wall — in multiple rounds of talks Wednesday.

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The House is now poised to leave town Thursday for five days without offering a clue to how it would avoid a crippling funding lapse for roughly a dozen agencies.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has cautioned members that they may need to come back Monday and Tuesday for a last-minute session on funding bills. But even Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the House GOP‘s spending chief, said Wednesday he was in the dark.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his deputies are discussing several hard-line spending tactics that would assert support for Trump’s $5 billion wall request. Those ideas, though, would do nothing to resolve the bitter standoff with Democrats that threatens a shutdown at midnight Dec. 21.

One option Ryan and his deputies are considering is a short-term bill that fully funds Trump’s $5 billion wall request but freezes the rest of federal spending through early 2019, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations. That stopgap package would also include billions of dollars to help people harmed by California’s deadly wildfire season and other natural disasters.

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 jammed with red meat for conservatives. That omnibus would also include disaster aid.

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 nine days before one-quarter of the federal government shuts down, a scenario that Trump himself has been stoking on national television.

Either House option would also have to account for the GOP‘s attendance problem in the final weeks of the lame-duck session. House Republicans face a real morale problem after last month’s Election Day drubbing, and dozens of GOP lawmakers have already skipped multiple votes on their way out.

GOP leaders discussed the strategy at a Wednesday afternoon meeting but emerged without a path forward.

Failing to secure the votes would be the ultimate humiliation for GOP leaders: watching Trump’s border wall funding bill die in a Republican-dominated House, just as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) predicted to Trump himself on Tuesday.

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

But there’s also a concern that the GOP’s moderates, many of whom feel that their losses hinged on Trump, will feel zero need to take a final stand on the wall.

Republicans have, so far, done little more than discuss the bill, and have yet to begin a formal whipping operation across the GOP Conference — to the consternation of conservative lawmakers and aides.

One day after the White House meeting, Democratic leaders said they were still waiting on the GOP’s next move, according to a Democratic aide.

Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, a moderate Republican who lost on Election Day, said Republicans almost have to vote for a stopgap spending bill that includes $5 billion in wall money after Pelosi’s taunts. While he prefers to enact new appropriations bills, he’d back a continuing resolution plus wall money to bolster the party’s hand in negotiations.

“It’s not my preference, but from a point of negotiation I think it’s important for Republicans in the House to make that statement,” Coffman said. “When Nancy Pelosi challenged the president by saying, ‘You don’t have the votes,’ that put us in a situation to at least demonstrate from a negotiating standpoint that we do have the votes.”

Rep. John Culberson of Texas, another Republican ousted in last month’s elections, dismissed the question of attendance.

“We’re gonna be here. People are gonna be here. Because we’ve got to get these appropriations bills done,” Culberson said. “I think it’s important that it pass. I think we all need to get behind it and illustrate to the president that we’ve got the support for it.”

Rachael Bade contributed to this report.

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