President Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with the head of his legislative team Friday afternoon as lawmakers and aides alike remain in the dark about his thinking heading into a possible partial shutdown next week.
"This isn't complicated," one senior GOP aide said. "We can't move until we know what the President wants. And we just don't know what he wants."
The meeting could mark the first look at where Trump stands -- and if he's willing to punt the fight over his border wall to the new year -- after days of GOP lawmakers and aides waiting for a signal from the White House on what path to pursue to as the clock ticks toward the December 21 funding deadline.
Trump has requested $5 billion for his border wall in funding bills Congress must pass to keep the government open -- an amount Democrats have consistently dismissed as a nonstarter.
During a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the White House earlier this week, the President signaled he wouldn't budge on his number or even consider proposals that would extend funding for border security at current levels for the next fiscal year, raising fears that a deal may not materialize before funding for one-quarter of the government runs dry.
A White House aide said his team hopes to get "a better sense of what his red lines are" out of Trump's meeting Friday with his legislative director, Shahira Knight, given how little progress was made Tuesday at his meeting with Democratic congressional leaders.
Trump's legislative team has kept in touch with congressional negotiators as lawmakers scramble for solutions before next week, although Republicans appear to be waiting on a cue from the President before executing on one of several contingency plans they have in the works.
Sources say Republican negotiators have started tentatively crafting shorter-term options -- measures that maintain current funding levels through the holidays and set up the fight again almost immediately after Pelosi, the next expected House speaker, takes the gavel on January 3 or into February or March.
Congressional Republicans currently view a punt to January as the most viable scenario, but the sources stress everything is tentative.