The Slatest

Border Security Negotiations in Congress Break Down as Another Shutdown Looms Friday

A woman looks through the border wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico on January 28, 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico.
A woman looks through the border wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico on January 28, 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Looks like we’re back at impasse as new questions are emerging over whether congressional negotiators will be able to seal a deal to prevent another government shutdown by the Friday deadline. There was optimism that negotiations on border security would make progress over the weekend to finalize a deal by Monday so lawmakers could vote and prevent yet another government shutdown. But Democrats and Republicans appear to be at an impasse and now aides on both sides are debating whether they need to be considering backstop alternatives to at least temporarily avert a shutdown. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby didn’t sound too optimistic Sunday as he acknowledged talks had stalled. “I’ll say 50/50 we’ll get a deal,” Shelby said on Fox News Sunday. Shelby said that while “we’re hoping we can get there,” he was “not confident” a deal could be reached through the weekend.

Shelby pointed the finger at Democrats for the stalled talks, saying they wanted to put a cap on the number of beds at immigration detention centers. Although negotiators appear to have come close to agreeing on the amount of funding for a border wall, Democrats are reportedly saying they will only agree to more money for the barrier if there is a cap on beds, which Republicans are resisting. “Time is ticking away but we got some problems with the Democrats dealing with ICE,” he said, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who is one of the key negotiators, sounded a bit more optimistic, saying that while a deal can’t be announced yet, “negotiations are still going on.” Tester told Fox News Sunday that he has “confidence that hopefully we will get something done very soon.” Meanwhile, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made sure to emphasize that a shutdown was still most definitely a possibility. “The government shutdown is technically still on the table,” Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday. “We do not want it to come to that but that option is still open to the president and will remain so.” Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Mulvaney said President Donald Trump may not have a choice. “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, an absurdly low number. How does he sign that?” Mulvaney said.

President Donald Trump weighed in on the stalled negotiations Sunday, sending out a pair of tweets in which he unsurprisingly pointed the finger at Democrats, who are “offering very little money” for the wall. Trump blamed the Democratic leadership, saying that they were making it difficult for negotiators to make a deal. The president speculated that Democrats may want to shut down the government to take attention away from other issues. “It was a very bad week for the Democrats, with the GREAT economic numbers, The Virginia disaster and the State of the Union address” Trump wrote. “Now, with the terrible offers being made by them to the Border Committee, I actually believe they want a Shutdown. They want a new subject!”