Talks fail, US stares at another shutdown
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$2bn.
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.