As clock ticks, new hur­dle emerges in bor­der se­cu­rity talks

Porterville Recorder - - NEWS - By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON — Bar­gain­ers clashed Sun­day over whether to limit the num­ber of mi­grants 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 wouldn't rule out a re­newed par­tial govern­ment shut­down if an agree­ment isn't 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 $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 $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," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-ala., said Sun­day on "Fox News Sun­day." ''I'm not con­fi­dent we're go­ing to get there."

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

But Mul­vaney did sig­nal that the White House would pre­fer not to have a repeat of the last shut­down, which stretched more than a month, left more than 800,000 govern­ment work­ers with­out pay­checks, forced a post­pone­ment of the State of the Union ad­dress and sent Trump's poll num­bers tum­bling. As sup­port in his own party be­gan to splin­ter, Trump sur­ren­dered af­ter the shut­down hit 35 days with­out getting money for the wall.

This time, Mul­vaney sig­naled that the White House may be will­ing to take what­ever con­gres­sional money comes — even if less than Trump's goal — and then sup­ple­ment that with other govern­ment funds.

"The pres­i­dent is go­ing to build the wall. That's our at­ti­tude at this point," Mul­vaney said on Fox. "We'll take as much money as you can give us, and we'll go find the money some­where else, legally, and build that wall on the south­ern bor­der, with or with­out Congress."

The pres­i­dent's sup­port­ers have sug­gested that Trump could use ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to di­vert money from the fed­eral bud­get for wall con­struc­tion, though it was un­clear if he would face chal­lenges in Congress or the courts. One pro­vi­sion of the law lets the De­fense Depart­ment pro­vide sup­port for coun­ter­drug ac­tiv­i­ties.

But declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency re­mained an op­tion, Mul­vaney said, even though many in the ad­min­is­tra­tion have cooled on the prospect. A num­ber of pow­er­ful Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell, R-KY., have also warned against the move, be­liev­ing it usurps power from Congress and could set a prece­dent for a fu­ture Demo­cratic pres­i­dent to de­clare an emer­gency for a lib­eral po­lit­i­cal cause.

The fight over ICE de­ten­tions goes to the core of each party's view on im­mi­gra­tion.

Repub­li­cans fa­vor tough en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws and have lit­tle in­ter­est in eas­ing them if Democrats refuse to fund the Mex­i­can bor­der wall. Democrats de­spise the pro­posed wall and, in re­turn for bor­der se­cu­rity funds, want to curb what they see as un­nec­es­sar­ily harsh en­force­ment by ICE.

Peo­ple in­volved in the talks say Democrats have pro­posed lim­it­ing the num­ber of im­mi­grants here il­le­gally who are caught in­side the U.S. — not at the bor­der — that the agency can de­tain. Repub­li­cans say they don't want that cap to ap­ply to im­mi­grants caught com­mit­ting crimes, but Democrats do.

In a series of tweets about the is­sue, Trump used the dis­pute to cast Democrats as soft on crim­i­nals. He charged in one tweet: "The Bor­der Com­mit­tee Democrats are be­hav­ing, all of a sud­den, ir­ra­tionally. Not only are they un­will­ing to give dol­lars for the ob­vi­ously needed Wall (they over­rode rec­om­men­da­tions of Bor­der Pa­trol ex­perts), but they don't even want to take mud­er­ers into cus­tody! What's go­ing on?"

Democrats say they pro­posed their cap to force ICE to con­cen­trate its in­ter­nal en­force­ment ef­forts on dan­ger­ous im­mi­grants, not those who lack le­gal author­ity to be in the coun­try but are pro­duc­tive and other­wise pose no threat. Democrats have pro­posed re­duc­ing the cur­rent num­ber of beds ICE uses to de­tain im­mi­grants here il­le­gally from 40,520 to 35,520.

But within that limit, they've also pro­posed lim­it­ing to 16,500 the num­ber for im­mi­grants here il­le­gally caught within the U.S., in­clud­ing crim­i­nals. Repub­li­cans want no caps on the num­ber of im­mi­grants who've com­mit­ted crimes who can be held by ICE.

As most bud­get dis­putes go, dif­fer­ences over hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars are usu­ally im­per­cep­ti­ble and eas­ily solved. But this bat­tle more than most is driven by po­lit­i­cal sym­bol­ism — whether Trump will be able to claim he de­liv­ered on his long-run­ning pledge to "build the wall" or newly em­pow­ered con­gres­sional Democrats' abil­ity to thwart him.

Pre­dictably each side blamed the other for the stall in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

"We were, you know, pro­gress­ing well," Rep. Tom Graves, R-GA., said Sun­day on ABC'S "This Week." ''I thought we were track­ing pretty good over the last week. And it just seems over the last 24 hours or so the goal­posts have been mov­ing from the Democrats."

House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Yar­muth, D-KY., coun­tered by telling the same show, "The num­bers are all over the place."

"I think the big prob­lem here is this has be­come pretty much an ego ne­go­ti­a­tion," Yar­mouth added. "And this re­ally isn't over sub­stance."

AP FILE PHOTO BY JAC­QUE­LYN MARTIN

In this 2018 file photo, Mick Mul­vaney, act­ing di­rec­tor of the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau (CFPB), and Di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment, lis­tens dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice in Washington.

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