Shutdown Looms As Talks on Border Wall Have Stalled

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that congressional talks to resolve the border wall dispute have broken down. 

With wall negotiations at an impasse it will be more difficult to avoid another government shutdown on Friday.

Members of Congress had been fairly optimistic going into the weekend about reaching a deal border security. This would allow them to pass a bill funding the government past Feb. 15 that would be signed by the president.

But with an agreement appearing increasingly unlikely, the negotiators are now reportedly discussing a stopgap Homeland Security bill.

The temporary funding deal that ended Donald Trump’s shutdown in January runs out on Friday. To prevent a repeat shutdown, the bipartisan conference committee must come up with a solution no later than Wednesday.

This would give both the House and the Senate enough time to hold at least minimal debate on the legislation, take votes, and put the bill on Trump’s desk.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Sunday that negotiations have stalled and put the odds of getting a deal at 50-50.

“We’ve got some problems with the Democrats dealing with ICE,” Shelby said in an interview. “I’m not confident we’re going to get there, I’m hoping we will get there.”

Members of both parties have been trying to agree on how much money could go to barriers along the border. Trump has demanded $5.7 billion, but lawmakers were discussing amounts between $1.3 billion and $2 billion that would be acceptable to both sides.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said President Donald Trump ha not ruled out another government shutdown.

“The government shutdown is technically still on the table,” Mulvaney said Sunday. “We do not want it to come to that, but that option is still open to the president and will remain so.”

Then he added:

“Let’s say that the hardcore left wing of the Democrat Party prevails 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.“

According to the Post:

Democrats were trying to limit the number of detention beds that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would have access to. Democrats want to cap detention beds as a way to limit aggressive detention activities by ICE. One of the people familiar with the situation said that was the issue that led to the impasse.”

Democratic members of the committee planned to have a phone conference this morning to discuss next steps.

“I would say all is not lost but it’s certainly not the place anybody wanted to be,” said a congressional source familiar with the talks.

The breakdown in talks has made a difficult situation even more uncertain. What a final agreement will look like is not known — and it may never happen. Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build his wall with the military, but that option faces strong opposition within his own party, as well as many large legal hurdles.

Since Democrats feel that they “won” the first shutdown, and that the vast majority of American voters agree with their positions, it is likely that they will not budge in their negotiating position. This puts the pressure to resolve the impasse right where it belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the president, who caused the current crisis in the first place.