US government shutdown threat over border wall impasse

World | 11 Feb 2019 10:51 am

Bargainers clashed Sunday over whether to limit the number of migrants US authorities can detain, tossing a new hurdle before negotiators hoping to strike a border security compromise for Congress to pass this coming week. The White House would not rule out a renewed partial government shutdown if an agreement is not reached.

With the Friday deadline approaching, the two sides remained separated by hundreds of millions of dollars over how much to spend to construct President Donald Trump’s promised border wall. But rising to the fore was a related dispute over curbing Customs and Immigration Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies and Democrats accuse of often going too far.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in appearances on NBC’s "Meet the Press” and "Fox News Sunday,” said "you absolutely cannot” eliminate the possibility of another shutdown if a deal is not reached over the wall and other border matters. The White House had asked for US$5.7 billion, a figure rejected by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and the mood among bargainers has soured, according to people familiar with the negotiations not authorized to speak publicly about private talks.

"You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take US$5.7 [billion] off the table,” Mulvaney told NBC, "but if you end up someplace in the middle, yeah, then what you probably see is the president say, ‘Yeah, OK, and I’ll go find the money someplace else.’”

A congressional deal seemed to stall even after Mulvaney convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers at Camp David, the presidential retreat in northern Maryland. While the two sides seemed close to clinching a deal late last week, significant gaps remain and momentum appears to have slowed. Though congressional Democratic aides asserted that the dispute had caused the talks to break off, it was initially unclear how damaging the rift was. Both sides are eager to resolve the long-running battle and avert a fresh closure of dozens of federal agencies that would begin next weekend if Congress doesn’t act by Friday.

"I think talks are stalled right now,” Senator Richard Shelby,, said Sunday on "Fox News Sunday.” ″I’m not confident we’re going to get there.”

Senator Jon Tester, who appeared on the same program, agreed: "We are not to the point where we can announce a deal.”-AP

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