Lit­tle progress in fight over wall fund­ing

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MICHAEL TACK­ETT AND CATIE ED­MOND­SON New York Times

As a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down en­tered its third week, ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and con­gres­sional aides from both par­ties yielded lit­tle progress Satur­day while the im­pact on gov­ern­ment ser­vices and on fed­eral work­ers was wors­en­ing by the day.

“Not much head­way made to­day,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­ceded on Twit­ter, not long af­ter the vice pres­i­dent’s of­fice char­ac­ter­ized the roughly two-hour talks, held next to the White House at the Old Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing, as “pro­duc­tive.”

The two sides are sched­uled to meet again Sun­day af­ter­noon, but there was lit­tle hope that the broad di­vide be­tween Trump and Democrats over his de­mand for more than $5 bil­lion for a bor­der wall would be bridged any­time soon. Satur­day’s talks came a day af­ter Trump said the gov­ern­ment shut­down could con­tinue for months or even years if Democrats did not re­lent on their stead­fast re­fusal to grant him the wall money.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions Satur­day fo­cused on pri­or­i­ties for se­cu­rity rather than a dol­lar fig­ure for the bor­der wall, the vice pres­i­dent’s of­fice said. While Trump has stood by his $5.7 bil­lion de­mand, Se­nate Democrats have of­fered $1.3 bil­lion for bor­der se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing fenc­ing, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Se­nate Demo­crat, Chuck Schumer of New York, have re­peat­edly said that they will not agree to any wall fund­ing.

The vice pres­i­dent’s of­fice said that Pence had re­it­er­ated the pres­i­dent’s po­si­tion that any deal needed to in­clude fund­ing for the wall. The of­fice also said that Democrats had re­quested ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion from the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity about its needs to

deal with bor­der is­sues.

Demo­cratic staff mem­bers asked for a for­mal bud­get jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­sis­tence on its $5.7 bil­lion pro­posal, a Demo­cratic of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sion said, adding that Pence made clear that the White House would not budge from that fig­ure. The Democrats told the vice pres­i­dent that there would be no move­ment on the dol­lar fig­ure un­til af­ter the gov­ern­ment is re­opened.

It is un­clear just what kind of au­thor­ity Trump has granted Pence to speak for him in ne­go­ti­a­tions. Last month, when Pence made a $2.6 bil­lion coun­terof­fer to Democrats in an ef­fort to avert the shut­down, Trump quickly shot down the pro­posal.

Dur­ing the talks Satur­day, Kirst­jen Nielsen, the Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, of­fered a brief­ing on what the ad­min­is­tra­tion has deemed a “cri­sis” at the bor­der. Neilsen had tried to give a sim­i­lar brief­ing ear­lier in the week to con­gres­sional lead­ers and White House of­fi­cials gath­ered in the Sit­u­a­tion Room, but she was cut off by Pelosi, who ques­tioned Nielsen’s facts.

In ad­di­tion to Nielsen, the vice pres­i­dent was joined Satur­day by Mick Mul­vaney, the act­ing chief of staff, and Jared Kush­ner, a se­nior ad­viser to Trump. Kush­ner is said to have raised the prospect with Demo­cratic law­mak­ers that if they give the pres­i­dent the full $5.7 bil­lion in wall fund­ing or some­thing close to it, they might in ex­change get an agree­ment for new pro­tec­tions for the young im­mi­grants known as Dream­ers.

For his part, the pres­i­dent seemed to be goad­ing Democrats with a morn­ing tweet that im­plied that he was ready to talk with them at the White House, even though it was he who had an­nounced Fri­day that the meet­ing would be at the staff level.

There have also been a few new signs of fray­ing po­lit­i­cal fealty to the pres­i­dent among Repub­li­cans. On Fri­day, Sen. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., be­came the third mem­ber of his party in the Se­nate to call for an end to the shut­down, join­ing Sen. Cory Gard­ner of Colorado and Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine. All three are ex­pected to face dif­fi­cult re-elec­tion bat­tles in 2020.

In an op-ed ar­ti­cle for the news­pa­per The Hill pub­lished Fri­day evening, Til­lis en­cour­aged Congress to strike a deal that would pro­vide “long-term cer­tainty to the DACA pop­u­la­tion” – the Dream­ers brought to the United States as chil­dren – and “force out the ex­treme el­e­ments on ei­ther side of the aisle.”

“When it comes to se­cur­ing our bor­ders, it’s im­por­tant to note that the real so­lu­tion is not go­ing to be a big, lit­eral phys­i­cal wall, but rather an all-the­above, all-hands-on-deck ap­proach,” he wrote, adding his sup­port for so­lu­tions in­clud­ing “phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers and steel fences.”

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