Law­mak­ers scram­ble to avoid shut­down

Fri­day dead­line looms af­ter week­end fund­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions break down

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - El­iza Collins Sen. Richard Shelby Con­tribut­ing: Alan Gomez and John Fritze

WASH­ING­TON – Top law­mak­ers strug­gled Mon­day af­ter­noon to find a com­pro­mise af­ter gov­ern­ment fund­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down over the week­end.

They seek a way out of an im­passe over bor­der se­cu­rity and in­ter­nal en­force­ment four days be­fore parts of the gov­ern­ment are set to shut down again, ab­sent a deal.

As Con­gress races against a Fri­day dead­line to strike an agree­ment or risk an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump headed to El Paso for a po­lit­i­cal rally – his first since the Novem­ber midterm elec­tion. Trump ac­cused Democrats of act­ing “ir­ra­tionally” on bor­der se­cu­rity in a tweet over the week­end.

House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and the top Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, Kay Granger of Texas, hud­dled with Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and top Demo­crat Pa­trick Leahy of Ver­mont.

Leahy was asked whether the group made progress as he left the meet­ing in the Capi­tol on Mon­day. “We’re all happy to meet at 6 – that’s progress,” the Ver­mont sen­a­tor said.

“We’re try­ing to dis­cuss se­ri­ously some ob­sta­cles to an agree­ment,” Shelby said as he walked from the meet­ing to Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s Capi­tol of­fice. He said he couldn’t tell if they were any closer to a deal.

The group is part of a bi­par­ti­san, bi­cam­eral com­mit­tee of ap­pro­pri­a­tors selected to find a so­lu­tion that can pass Con­gress and get sup­port from the pres­i­dent be­fore some of the gov­ern­ment’s fund­ing lapses Fri­day at mid­night.

“I don’t think Democrats or Republi- cans want a shut­down. One op­tion or an­other, we will re­solve this,” Lowey said af­ter the meet­ing.

Un­til this week­end, the big­gest stick­ing point for the group had been how to deal with the pres­i­dent’s de­mand for a $5.7 bil­lion wall along the south­ern bor­der. Dur­ing the last shut­down, Democrats re­fused to give him the money, say­ing the wall would be costly and in­ef­fec­tive.

Last week, they ex­plored a com­pro­mise in­volv­ing some sort of struc­ture, though the fig­ures dis­cussed were far less than Trump’s ini­tial re­quest.

“I think that we ex­pect that if the ev­i­dence sup­ports the no­tion for en­hanced fenc­ing mov­ing for­ward, that we will find some bi­par­ti­san con­sen­sus,” House Demo­cratic Cau­cus Chair­man Ha­keem Jef­fries of New York said last week.

“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Shelby said on “Fox News Sun­day,” adding that the dis­agree­ment cen­tered on Democrats’ de­mands for a cap on de­ten­tions by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency.

“I will say 50/50 we get a deal,” he said. “I hope and pray we do.”

Democrats said ICE de­tains more im­mi­grants than it needs to, im­pris­on­ing those who don’t have crim­i­nal back­grounds and pose no threat to na­tional or do­mes­tic se­cu­rity. That’s why they want to set a hard cap on the num­ber of im­mi­grants ICE de­tains, the goal be­ing to force the agency to fo­cus its re­sources on vi­o­lent crim­i­nals.

“This agency needs checks and bal­ances, so the Repub­li­cans want to get more wall money and Democrats want to get con­trols on ICE. This is what a ne­go­ti­a­tion looks like,” said Kerri Tal­bot of the ad­vo­cacy group Im­mi­gra­tion Hub.

Repub­li­cans said a de­ten­tion cap would force the re­lease of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in cus­tody and warned of the risk that many might not show up for sched­uled hear­ings on whether they should be de­ported.

Matthew Al­bence, deputy di­rec­tor of ICE, said a cap on ICE de­tainees would be “dam­ag­ing to pub­lic safety.”

“We will im­me­di­ately be forced to re­lease crim­i­nal aliens sit­ting in our cus­tody” if the cap is put in place, Al­bence said.

In a tweet Mon­day morn­ing, Trump ac­cused the Democrats of a brand new de­mand, and he told re­porters ICE was “very dis­re­spected by the Democrats.”

Later in the morn­ing, on the Se­nate floor, McCon­nell piled on, ac­cus­ing Democrats of “a poi­son-pill de­mand” at “the 11th hour.”

Lowey ex­pressed sur­prise at McCon­nell’s com­ments Mon­day af­ter­noon: “I’ve worked with Mitch McCon­nell, and we’ve ac­com­plished a lot to­gether. I’m sorry that is his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of where things are.”

House Democrats pointed out that the 16,500 cap on ICE beds has been part of the Democrats’ pro­posal since it was first in­cluded in their open­ing of­fer Jan. 31.

“I think the talks are stalled right now. I will say 50/50 we get a deal. I hope and pray we do.”

R-Ala.

EPA-EFE

Sen. Richard Shelby, from left, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Kay Granger and Sen. Pa­trick Leahy are lead­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at find­ing a way out of a bud­get im­passe cen­tered on bor­der se­cu­rity and in­ter­nal en­force­ment.

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