Negotiations over border security legislation have stalled this weekend, increasing the chances that another government shutdown could happen as Friday’s funding deadline approaches.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers had hoped to negotiate a solution this weekend to President Donald Trump’s non-starter of a demand for $5.7 billion for a vaguely defined border “wall.” When Democrats refused Trump’s wall, a position led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump’s administration held the federal government hostage for 35 days, resulting in an economic cost to the nation of $6 billion.
Trump ended that historically long shutdown on Jan. 25 by signing legislation to temporarily reopen the government until Feb. 15 while talks over border security continue.
But on Sunday, Republican lawmakers said talks the previous day had stalled, and they blamed Democrats for seeking a cap on the number of detention beds that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could access, according to The Washington Post.
“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican, told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace. “I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning, because time’s ticking away.”
Shelby said he hoped the two sides could reach an agreement on ICE bed access within the next 24 hours, but he remained skeptical as of Sunday morning.
Regarding the $5.7 billion in wall funding that Trump had demanded, Shelby said the president had given him “some latitude” to negotiate, which likely means Trump would accept a much lower figure. However, the Republicans’ lead negotiator said his conversations with the president were confidential.
The Post reported that the figure probably is in the range of $1.3 billion to $2 billion.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who also appeared on Fox News Sunday, was more upbeat. “If we stay focused on getting a deal and we negotiate in good faith on border security, I think we’ll end up with something that can work and keep the government open and give certainty for not only the public employees but for the safety of the country,” Tester said.
“And nobody wants a shutdown, nobody wants the president to use some kind of emergency powers,” he added.
Meanwhile, asked by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press if a government shutdown definitively could be ruled out, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney replied, “Absolutely not.”
“So let’s say the hardcore left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in this negotiation, and they put a bill on the president’s desk with, say, zero money for the wall or $800 million, some absurdly low number, how does he sign that? He cannot in good faith sign that,” Mulvaney said.
“Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no,” he added.
As usual, Trump weighed in on the issue in a series of tweets Sunday, including one with a xenophobic and inaccurate comment directed at Latin Americans.
“Gallup Poll: ‘Open Borders will potentially attract 42 million Latin Americans.’ This would be a disaster for the U.S. We need the Wall now!” Trump tweeted.
In another, Trump said, “I don’t think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!”
He also taunted Democrats for having “a very bad week”: