But Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said that while he thought the shutdown was “going to drag on a lot longer,” Mr. Trump’s shift in wall materials could provide a semantic opening to advance the talks.
“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move in the right direction,” Mr. Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If that’s not evidence of the president’s desire to try and resolve this, I don’t know what is.”
While Mr. Trump had expressed little hope for the talks on Sunday, he indicated that the coming days would offer a chance to show that resolve. “I think we’re going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” he said.
Democrats believe they have a plan to bring new leverage to the negotiations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would begin considering individual appropriations bills this week that would reopen the government, starting with legislation that would return workers to the Treasury Department, including the Internal Revenue Service, followed by measures to open the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and the Interior.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, said on “Meet the Press”: “We’ll do it bill by bill so we can help taxpayers, we can help people who need food assistance, we can help people who need housing vouchers, people who need flood insurance. We’ll do it one by one.”
Those bills have little chance in the Senate, where Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has held fast to his pledge that he would not put any legislation on the floor that the president would not approve. House Democrats last week passed legislation that would have reopened the government, but the Senate did not take up the bills.
Congressional Republicans employed a bill-by-bill strategy of their own in 2015 on the brink of a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood, only to have Democrats block all 12 spending bills approved by the Appropriations Committee.