Budget Talks Fraying on ICE Detention Beds, Border Wall

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump lashed out at congressional Democrats on Monday, following a flurry of comments from key lawmakers indicating that talks to avoid another government shutdown have broken down.

“The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens!” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “This is a brand new demand. Crazy!”

A team of congressional negotiators have until Friday to put together a package to fund the government and avert the second government shutdown in as many months. Negotiations began at the end of January, shortly after the White House and Congress struck a short-term deal to end a 35-day shutdown that hinged on $5 billion in funding for a wall along the southern border. 

Last week key lawmakers had been optimistic that they would be able to reach an agreement before the deadline. 

“The environment’s improved, as far as on the staff level and some of the personal level too,” Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican and member of the conference committee, told reporters last week. “We’re talking about substance, we’re making overtures both ways.”

Lawmakers also heard from border-security experts in the Trump administration last week about how much money they would like the deal to include for border security and in what form. 

But some of the key negotiators on Sunday struck a more pessimistic tone, primarily over Democrats’ demands to limit the number of detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The Trump admin has been tearing communities apart with its cruel immigration policies,” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat and conference committee member, tweeted Sunday. “A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump admin to prioritize deportation for criminals and people posing real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants contributing to our country.” 

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Shelby said talks are “stalled” over the Democrats’ request, which Republicans have been unwilling to endorse. 

“We’re working and we’re hoping we can get there, but we’ve got to get fluid again, we’ve got to start movement,” Shelby said.  

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on “Meet the Press” Sunday and said he “absolutely cannot” rule out another shutdown. Mulvaney said whether the president would sign the eventual package put forward by the conference committee would largely depend on how much money it includes for a wall. 

Also appearing on Fox News Sunday, Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who is on the committee, said discussions over money for a wall or other structure along the southern border are ongoing. 

“We are not to a point where we can announce a deal,” Tester said. “Negotiations are still going on. There are good people on this committee, so I have confidence that hopefully we will get something done very soon.” 

Negotiators had little to say after leaving a round of talks in the Capitol on Monday afternoon. The group broke around 5 p.m., but will resume negotiations after the Senate holds a procedural vote on an unrelated measure at 5:30.

“Certainly, we’re all happy to meet again at 6,” Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the top Democrats on the committee, said.

As Monday went on, the Trump administration continued to put pressure on Democrats over their demands to cap the number of people ICE can detain at once. ICE Deputy Director Matt Albence told reporters Monday the Democrats’ request would lead to “disastrous results” for public safety.

“You cannot have border security without strong interior enforcement components because you will continually have people to put pressure on that border,” Albence said. “Whether there’s a wall there or not, they can come to a point of entry and make a fraudulent asylum claim. They can come on a legitimate visa and overstay that visa. And if they know there is no enforcement arm within the interior of the United States that’s out there looking for them, you will continually have that pull factor and you will never secure the border.”

Negotiators face a tight deadline to get a bill on the floor. House leadership has notified members that it is possible the chamber will take votes over the weekend if it is unable to pass the funding package by Friday.

%d bloggers like this: