US lawmakers try to save shutdown talks as Trump heads to border | News

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As US President Donald Trump plans a rally in the Texas border city of El Paso, Democratic and Republican negotiators in Congress are struggling to reach a deal on the president’s proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. 

If an agreement is not hashed out by February 15, the government will fall again into partial shutdown, less than a month after a record-long government shutdown ended with no agreement over the border wall. 

On Monday, the top four Democratic and Republican negotiators in US Congress were planning to meet hours before Trump arrives in Texas for his rally. 

The politicians hope to reach an agreement on Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the House of Representatives and Senate and get signed by Trump by Friday, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and several other federal agencies expires.

Negotiations broke down during the weekend over funding for immigrant detention beds and physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, US Representative Kay Granger, will attend the meeting with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican, and the panel’s senior Democrat Patrick Leahy, according to congressional aides.

They were tentatively set to meet at 3:30pm (2030 GMT).

Trump’s December demand for $5.7bn to help construct a border wall triggered the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month.

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 September 30, to avert another shutdown on February 15.

Impasse

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has sought to crack down on immigration. 

Trump made a border wall one of his central campaign promises in 2016, saying it is needed to curb irregular immigration, drug trafficking and other crimes.

Democrats, who took control of the House last month from Trump’s fellow Republicans, oppose a wall, calling it ineffective, expensive and immoral.

Some negotiators last week held out the option of passing another stopgap funding bill to avert a shutdown and allow more time to reach a border deal.

But one House aide said the goal of Monday’s meeting was to revitalise the negotiations for funding for the remainder of the fiscal year and not to discuss another short-term spending bill.

Democrats are opposed to the Trump administration expanding its capacity to hold more people arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for eventual deportation.

Republicans want to increase the number of beds in detention facilities to enable holding more people to speed up and expand deportations.

A sticking point in the talks has been a Democratic demand for funding fewer detention beds.

A Trump administration official told reporters on Monday that the Democratic proposal would be “extremely dangerous” to public safety. 

Matt Albence, deputy director of ICE, said this is a “crucial public safety issue”. 

In El Paso, an anti-wall protest will greet the Republican president on Monday, led by hometown Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman who in November lost a close election for a US Senate seat from Texas to Republican Ted Cruz and now is considering seeking his party’s 2020 presidential nomination.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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