Talks fail, US stares at another shut­down

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - COMMENT - Yash­want Raj yash­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

WASHINGTON: Bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional talks on bor­der se­cu­rity have bro­ken down and the US 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 US me­dia, the talks hit a wall over the num­ber of ad­di­tional de­ten­tion beds funded by the pack­age un­der dis­cus­sion, which was 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. “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 (Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment), that is de­tain­ing crim­i­nals that come into the US 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. As a Fe­bru­ary 15 dead­line to reach an agree­ment looms, White House act­ing chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney said the shut­down can­not be taken 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 sides are re­port­edly dis­cussing a much lower fig­ure, be­tween $1.3 bn that Democrats con­ceded ear­lier, and not for a wall but for bor­der se­cu­rity, and $2 bn.

The two sides 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.

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