No progress in shut­down talks led by vice pres­i­dent


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.


Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, left, and oth­ers walk down the steps of the Eisen­hower Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice build­ing af­ter an in­con­clu­sive meet­ing Satur­day with staff mem­bers of House and Se­nate lead­ers of both par­ties.

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