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Another Shutdown Possible as Border Deal Talks Break Down
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11 Feb 2019 11:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer: Image: Richard Shelby (Image source: Screenshot)

 

Two lawmakers tasked with negotiating a border security deal to avoid the second partial government shutdown over this issue are in disagreement of how the process is going. While Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) are both in the same committee, the Republican is seeing a breakdown in talks, while the Democrat is viewing it as normal in the negotiation process.

 

This all goes back to Donald Trump's campaign promise in 2016 that he would build a border wall at the Mexico/United States Border to properly deal with immigration. Two years into his presidency, he still hasn't been able to secure the funding for it. He insisted in 2016 he'd make Mexico pay for it.   

When that became an impossibility, he turned to the taxpayers. Lawmakers have not been able to balance the budget because the president is insisting on money being built in for his border wall. There have been temporary deals and a partial government shutdown that lasted over a month.

 

And now they are approaching a February 15 deadline to come to an agreement after Trump temporarily opened the government again while awaiting an agreement from a 17-member bipartisan committee. 

"The talks are stalled right now," said Shelby on "Fox News Sunday." He reported that the breakdown was due to the Democrats wanting to put a cap on the number of beds that would be allowed in detention facilities for illegal immigrants. Republicans want to increase the amount of beds to speed up the process of deporting undocumented immigrants.

 

Tester doesn't believe they are at a stalemate. "It is a negotiation," he explained. "Negotiations seldom go smooth[ly] all the way through."  

He's still hopeful a deal can be reached, while Shelby puts those chances at 50-50. There are no further talks scheduled for the committee, according to a Reuters anonymous source.

 

Initially they wanted an agreement by Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by Trump by the Friday deadline when the temporary deal to keep Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies open expires. 

The Democrats want to lower the amount of beds in detention facilities from 40,520 to 35,520 in return for giving in to Trump's demand for funding for physical barriers. Democrats also want to create a limit of 16,500 within that cap for undocumented immigrants apprehended within the country. The remaining beds would be at border detention centers.

 

This would force ICE agents to put a greater focus on arresting and deporting only serious criminals instead of every immigrant entrapping those who are law-abiding, according to a House Democratic aide, who added, "Claims that this proposal allow violent criminals to be released are false."  

Republicans rejected this offer. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally, offered that the president "is not going to sign any legislation that reduces the bed spaces. You can take that to the bank."

 

"You absolutely cannot," said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney regarding whether another shutdown could be ruled out. "Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no." 

Trump has also floated the idea of declaring a national emergency to get the $5.7 billion for his border wall from the budget of the Army Corps of Engineers.

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