WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facing a Friday deadline to avoid another partial U.S. government shutdown, congressional negotiators said they were aiming to reach a deal on border security funding by Monday night, after talks broke down over the weekend.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Richard Shelby spoke to reporters during a break in private meetings they have been holding with two of their House of Representatives counterparts.
“Senator Shelby and I … both agree that if we can wrap this up tonight, do it tonight, not go over to tomorrow” with negotiations, Leahy said.
“We’re talking about reaching an agreement on all of it,” Shelby said. He was referring to deciding funding levels through Sept. 30 for physical barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, along with the number of immigrant detention beds throughout the United States.
The stalled talks restarted in the U.S. Capitol just hours before a scheduled rally in the Texas border city of El Paso, where President Donald Trump will promote his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal opposed by Democrats.
An anti-wall protest will greet the Republican president, led by hometown Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman considering running for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination after gaining national prominence last year by nearly upsetting Republican Ted Cruz in a U.S. Senate race in Texas.
In Washington, the lawmakers grappled with brokering a deal by late Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the House of Representatives and Senate and get Trump’s signature by Friday, when funding is due to expire for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and several other federal agencies.
Trump, who said in December he would be “proud” to shut the federal government over border security, took a different tack on Monday. “It’s up to the Democrats,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked whether the government was headed toward its second shutdown of the winter.
The talks stumbled over the weekend over funding for physical barriers along the border and a Democratic proposal to reduce allotted spaces in immigration detention facilities for people facing deportation.
Democrats oppose the Trump administration expanding its capacity to hold more people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for eventual deportation.
The White House and the top Republican in Congress on Monday blasted the Democratic plan, which calls for lowering an existing cap on beds at the detention facilities to 35,520 from the current 40,520 in return for giving Republicans some of the money they want for physical border barriers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the proposal a “poison pill” introduced into the talks by the Democrats, saying it would result in the release of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Democrats counter that placing new limits would force the administration to focus on detaining illegal immigrants with serious criminal records and not those stopped for minor traffic infractions, for example.
Conservative Republican Representative Mark Meadows, an ally of the White House, told reporters he thought Trump would be open to avoiding a government shutdown by extending funding at current levels if a broad deal cannot be reached.
Trump’s December demand for $5.7 billion to help construct a border wall triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month without him getting wall funding. Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow congressional negotiators time to find a compromise on government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, to avert another shutdown on Feb. 15.
Negotiators had been discussing possibly slightly more than $1.6 billion for “physical barriers” along the southern border, far below Trump’s demand.
Trump made a border wall one of his central 2016 campaign promises, saying it was needed to curb illegal immigration, drug trafficking and other crimes and that Mexico would pay for it. Democrats, who assumed control of the House last month from Trump’s fellow Republicans, have called a wall ineffective, expensive and immoral.
Democrats generally push for less use of detention, arguing it is much cheaper to release some immigrants but require restrictions on them such as wearing ankle bracelets that track their location. Republicans want to increase the number of beds in detention facilities to enable holding more people to speed up and expand deportations.
Trump, who has sought to crack down on illegal immigration and has called the situation at the border a national security crisis, deployed 3,750 more U.S. troops there this month.
Rebuking Trump, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said he would pull hundreds of the state’s National Guard troops from the border.
“The border ‘emergency’ is nothing more than a manufactured crisis – and CA’s National Guard will not be part of this political theater,” Newsom wrote on Twitter.
New Mexico’s Democratic governor made a similar move last week.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland; writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney
Hillary Clinton slams Trump’s national emergency declaration in tweet
Hillary Clinton took to Twitter on Monday to slam President Trump for declaring a national emergency along the United States southern border.
In her tweet, the former secretary of state said the “real national emergencies” were “Relentless gun violence. Children separated from their families at the border. Climate change” and “Americans dying for lack of health care.”
Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential race, has been one of his harshest critics since his election. On Instagram on Monday, she appeared to troll Trump by posting a photo of the three living former Democratic presidents – Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and, her husband, Bill Clinton – as well former First Lady Michelle Obama alongside the message “Happy Presidents Day.”
Clinton’s national emergency tweet follows Trump declaring a national emergency Friday to shift billions of federal dollars earmarked for military construction to the border after lawmakers in both parties blocked his request for billions of dollars to fulfill his signature campaign pledge for a border wall.
Democrats are planning to introduce a resolution disapproving of the declaration once Congress returns to session and it is likely to pass both chambers. Several Republican senators are already indicating they would vote against Trump — though there do not yet appear to be enough votes to override a veto by the president.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” Asked if that meant Trump was ready to veto a resolution of disapproval, Miller added, “He’s going to protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed.”
Miller insisted that Congress granted the president wide berth under the National Emergencies Act to take action. But Trump’s declaration goes beyond previous emergencies in shifting money after Congress blocked his funding request for the wall, which will likely factor in legal challenges.
Trump aides acknowledge that Trump cannot meet his pledge to build the wall by the time voters decide whether to grant him another term next year, but insist his base will remain by his side as long as he is not perceived to have given up the fight on the barrier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Presidents Day protests decry Trump’s emergency declaration
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Activists in Washington, Chicago and dozens of other U.S. cities protested on Monday’s Presidents Day holiday against President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
A woman holds a sign during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on President’s Day near the White House in Washington, U.S., February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Calling Trump’s declaration an abuse of power and usurpation of Congress, organizers with the nonprofit advocacy group MoveOn.org and other participants said it was important to let the outrage over the move be heard.
“We disagree with the state of emergency declared by the president and stand with our immigrant colleagues and friends,” said Darcy Regan, executive director of Indivisible Chicago, which co-hosted the protest there.
Trump invoked the emergency powers on Friday after Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise. His move aims to let him spend money appropriated by Congress for other purposes.
The Republican president says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border. Democrats and opponents of the wall say it is unnecessary.
The protests in Chicago and Washington each drew a few hundred people on Monday afternoon.
Protesters gathered in Chicago’s Federal Plaza carried signs that read “Dump Trump” and “Fake Emergency” and chanted “No wall, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
Cheryl Krugel-Lee, a 32-year-old student, said she brought her 4-year-old daughter to the protest in freezing weather to set an example for her.
“This was a power grab by the Trump administration, and it’s immoral and illegal,” Krugel-Lee said.
Organizers said 250 events were planned, including in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Democrats have vowed to challenge the national emergency declaration as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in television interviews that his state and others would sue the Trump administration on Monday.
Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Dan Grebler
Cory Booker calls warnings about Green New Deal price tag a ‘lie’
“This is the lie that’s going on right now,” Booker told Fox News in Nashua, N.H., as he campaigned in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
The New Jersey senator was asked about the costs of the Green New Deal, which is supported by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives and aims to implement a range of big-government programs while pursuing a level of “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” — essentially, a total economic transformation toward clean energy that, among other points, includes building upgrades across the country.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported it cost nearly $2,000 per apartment for the New York City Housing Authority to switch to LED lighting, which lasts longer and consumes less energy than incandescent bulbs. Asked about that report, Booker said it’s possible to “revive your economy, and create a bold green future,” citing his experience as mayor of Newark, N.J.
“We environmentally retrofitted our buildings. Saves taxpayers money, created jobs for our community and lowered our carbon footprint,” Booker said.
He added, “This lie that’s being put out – that somehow being green and responsible with the environment means you have to hurt the economy – a lie.”
The Green New Deal is a sweeping proposal designed to tackle income inequality and climate change at the same time. It’s modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal package of public works programs and projects created to help the economy during the Great Depression — but in many ways goes much further.
The rollout itself was muddled by the release of Ocasio-Cortez documents that, among other things, promised economic security even for those “unwilling” to work.
The plan itself aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and agriculture and dramatically expand energy sources to meet 100 percent of power demand through renewable sources. The proposal also calls for a job-guarantee program and universal health care, among other things.
Republican critics have vehemently pushed back against the proposal, pointing in part to the price tag – estimated to be about $7 trillion. Republicans have also decried the job guarantee idea, calling it a “deeply flawed policy” that would be detrimental to small businesses.
Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.
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