Another shutdown looms as US border security talks break down
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Another shutdown looms as US border security talks break down

Bipartisan congressional talks on border security have broken down and the United States could be staring at another government shutdown from February 15 when funding for a part of the government runs out.

world Updated: Feb 10, 2019 22:30 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Donald Trump news,US wall
US president Donald Trump.(AFP file photo)

Bipartisan congressional talks on border security have broken down and the United States could be staring at another government shutdown from February 15 when funding for a part of the government runs out.

According to officials cited in multiple US media reports bipartisan congressional talks hit a wall over the number of additional detention beds funded by the package under discussion, which, however has been otherwise focussed on money for a border wall.

“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Senator Richard C Shelby, the lead negotiator for Republicans, said on Fox News Sunday. “I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning because time is ticking away but we’ve got some problems with the Democrats dealing with ICE US Immigration and Customs Enforcement), that is detaining criminals that come into the U.S. and they want a cap on them. We don’t want a cap on that.”

Democrats want to keep down the number of additional beds as a check on ICE’s aggressive measures.

And with a looming February 15 deadline to reach an agreement, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC, “cannot take the shutdown off the table and you cannot take $5.7 billion [for the border wall] off the table”.

President Donald Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for a border wall, but the two dies are reported to be discussing a much lower figure, between $1.3 billion that Democrats conceded earlier, and not for a wall but border security, and $2 billion.

The two sides, who retired to a presidential retreat outside Washington DC for talks led by Mulvaney, have until Friday to come to an agreement. If they fail, government agencies impacted by the recent shutdown, which was the longest in US history, could shutter again. An estimated 800,000 federal employees were either furloughed or were forced to work without pay in the previous partial shutdown that lasted 36 days, ending January 25.

The president could resort to executive action, such as declare a national emergency to find the funds for the wall from allocations for other government agencies.

But he has received pushback on this, including from his own party, from those who who argue that, one, this would set a precedent for a Democratic president at some stage to do the same to fund a climate change measure.

And, two, the executive action could be challenged in court.

The president weighed in on the discussions in a tweet Saturday, without actually referring to them. “The Democrats just don’t seem to want Border Security. They are fighting Border Agents recommendations. If you believe news reports, they are not offering much for the Wall. They look to be making this a campaign issue. The Wall will get built one way or the other.”

First Published: Feb 10, 2019 22:28 IST