Shutdown Is Still 'on the Table' as Border Security Talks Hit Another Impasse
02:37 11.02.2019(updated 02:58 11.02.2019)
Talks between President and lawmakers have stalled as negotiators hint that they are still struggling to reach a deal to fund border security and avoid another government shutdown before the Friday deadline.
The Senate's top Republican negotiator, Senator Richard Shelby, said on Sunday that the talks have "stalled" because Democrats are raising new concerns over deterring immigrants at the border, while President Trump has accused Democratic leaders of interfering with the talks.
"I think the talks are stalled right now. I'm hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning because time is ticking away," Shelby said on "Fox News Sunday", noting that there is a "50-50" chance of a deal while warning that "the spectre of a shutdown is always out there."
Trump on Sunday claimed in a tweet that he doesn't believe Democratic negotiators are being allowed to make a deal.
An administration official speaking to the Hill on condition of anonymity said that the sticking point for Democrats was the demand to reduce the number of beds that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has available for detained immigrants from 38,000 to 16,000.
"This is 'abolish ICE.' That's what it is," the official said about the Democratic position, warning that Republicans are about to "walk" away from the negotiating table because of it.
A House Democratic aide confirmed that Democrats have proposed a reduction in the number of ICE detention beds, suggesting that the proposal would "force the Trump administration to prioritize arresting and deporting serious criminals, not law-abiding immigrants."
"A cap on detention beds associated with interior enforcement will rein in the Trump administration's deportation agenda, prevent the Trump administration from shifting more funding to detention beds than Congress has agreed to, and restore immigration enforcement to the levels that were in place at the end of the Obama administration," the aide said, cited by the Hill.
Meanwhile, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned that it is still possible for a shutdown to happen as Democrats have not presented a consistent offer.
"I've heard that there may be a deal with as much as $2.1 or $2.5 billion for a, for a border fence, then I hear there may be $0 or as little as $800 million for the border fence," he said.
Mulvaney added that the president can redirect a substantial amount of federal funding without declaring a national emergency and was likely to do so, combining the funds with whatever money he can get from Congress.
"Any president can do this," Mulvaney said. "There are certain funds of money that he can get to without declaring a national emergency and other funds that he can only get to after declaring a national emergency."
Democratic negotiators rejected the suggestion that they are not going to reach a deal, noting that the current situation is a normal part of negotiating the process.
"I'm not positive that we'll end up with a deal but with this group of people, and the folks in the House, I think we end up with something that deals with detention beds, with barriers, with technology, with the challenges we have at the southern border, in a common sense way," said Senator Jon Tester, a leading Democratic negotiator.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told CNN's "State of the Union" that Democrats aren't in favor of giving Trump more than $2 billion for border barriers in 2019, despite President's demand of $5.7 billion for additional funding for the construction of a border wall.
"The problem now is that we've only got about 7 months left on the fiscal year. So I don't think the president can actually spend much more than $2 billion. But of course we're willing to compromise, of course, we're willing to put more money into border security. I'll be interested to see what the compromise looks like before I commit to voting for or against it," he said.
The disagreement between Democrats and the President over border security recently resulted in the longest shutdown in US history. The President agreed to reopen the government and sign a temporary budget for government agencies through February 15 in order to negotiate a better deal.
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