MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
It looks as though a partial government shutdown is all but assured when we reach midnight tonight. That is because the House and Senate have both adjourned for the night. So lawmakers won't be around to vote on any bill that would avert a shutdown. And as of now, there is no such bill anyway though negotiations have been going on to try to reach one. Republican Senator Bob Corker talked about this earlier tonight on the Senate floor.
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BOB CORKER: We're not voting on anything else in this chamber relative to this issue until a global agreement has been reached between the president and these two leaders and the leader of the House.
KELLY: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is at the White House tonight. Hi, Ayesha.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
KELLY: All right, so what is the latest on where things stand?
RASCOE: So right now, as you said, unless something unforeseen happens, the - there will be a partial government shutdown, and that will start at midnight. So what has happened is you had Vice President Pence, White House adviser Jared Kushner and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney up on the Hill today. And they were going back and forth between offices to see if they could negotiate some deal that would be acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats and that the president would sign. That's a really big task at this point, and it looks like those negotiations will be continuing in the coming days.
There is this expectation and agreement - the only agreement that has been reached is that there will be more talks and that there won't be any further votes until there's an agreement that can pass both chambers of Congress and that won't be vetoed.
KELLY: OK, so it sounds like the answer to my next question is no, but do we have any idea of what kind of middle ground they may be trying to carve out, any details on what an agreement might look like?
RASCOE: No, not at this point. And really the two sides seem kind of dug in right now. President Trump has been demanding funding for a border wall, and Democrats say that's a nonstarter. So it's not clear where that middle ground will be and if there is middle ground to be reached.
KELLY: And has the president weighed in directly tonight?
RASCOE: So he did tweet that he's not going to Florida today. We kind of already knew that, but he confirmed that. There had been a trip planned to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas for him. So instead he's here at the White House. And right now we don't expect to see him again tonight or him to make a public statement although it's always possible that he can tweet.
KELLY: Always possible.
RASCOE: Always possible (laughter). So earlier today before the negotiations started, he was kind of placing all of the responsibility on Democrats and basically saying if there is a shutdown, which it looks like it will be, that that would be the fault of Democrats. And of course that's a change from what he was saying last week when he would - when he said he would take responsibility. He did tweet this this evening about a design for the wall, which he's now calling a steel-slats barrier. So he tweeted out this design. So it's clear that at least for his part, he's very much - the wall is very much on his mind, and promoting the idea of a wall is very much on his mind.
KELLY: Steel slats, which would of course resemble sections of the existing wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Let me, before I let you go, Ayesha, turn you to a couple of other big developments this week - the president ordering all U.S. troops out of Syria and roughly half of U.S. troops that are currently in Afghanistan - he says he's going to bring them home. Both of these developments appear to have contributed to the resignation of Jim Mattis - outgoing defense secretary Jim Mattis. You're at the White House every day. Do people seem unsettled by this turn of events, by the president losing his defense secretary?
RASCOE: It doesn't seem like it's too unsettling right now. People in this White House are kind of used to a lot of upheaval and a lot of changes happening very abruptly. So at - right now is kind of par for the course. And the president seems to be going in a direction where he wants to keep his promises and no matter what the establishment says. And it seems like pulling the troops was a part of that.
KELLY: That's NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks, Ayesha.
RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.