Time is running out to avoid a second partial government shutdown, as congressional talks about border-security funding broke down during the weekend in the latest dispute over detention beds for immigrants.
Negotiations could still get back on track in the next 24 hours, and negotiators may decide that a stopgap funding extension past Friday is necessary. But the prospect of getting
an agreement by Friday’s deadline seems to have derailed, just as negotiators had hoped to unveil a deal on Monday to set up votes in the House and Senate this week.
The sticking point is over the number and purpose of immigration detention beds. Democrats are seeking a cap to force US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to detain criminals rather than undocumented immigrants with no criminal history. Republicans are resisting a limit on grounds that criminals shouldn’t count towards it and ICE should have discretion.
Without a funding deal, nine federal departments and related agencies would shut down again, just weeks after a record 35-day closing. Negotiators also continue to haggle about the amount of funding for a wall and placement of fencing on the southern US border. Amid the talks, Trump heads to El Paso, Texas, on Monday for a rally “to show Democrats how much Americans demand The WALL,’’ according to a Trump campaign fundraising email.
“I’ll say 50/50 we’ll get a deal,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I hope and pray we do.” Lawmakers could resort to a resolution with funding through September 30 if they can’t get a deal, but acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump “cannot sign everything they put in front of him. There’ll be some things that simply we couldn’t agree to.”
Mulvaney said a shutdown isn’t the most likely option but that he “absolutely cannot” rule it out. Trump has also threatened declaring a national emergency to get funding for a border wall. “He’s going to do whatever he legally can to secure the border,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” one of two
appearances on talk shows.
Democrats are also demanding language in the bill aimed at blocking Trump from shifting funds to pay for the wall, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The language could stymie executive actions to build the barriers and has become another hitch in the negotiations, the person said.
As of Saturday, it seemed that negotiators were focused on a proposal with border barrier funding of between $1.3 billion and $2 billion, said a person familiar with the talks. Details about where the fencing would go and a Democratic request to eliminate previously funded fencing in the National Butterfly Center, a conservation area close to the border in Mission, Texas, were still being negotiated.
The White House and Republicans have been emphasizing in the talks that Trump cannot
accept less than $2 billion for border barriers.