Bipartisan talks aimed at resolving the border wall dispute and averting a government shutdown on Saturday NZT have broken down and are at an impasse, lawmakers and others familiar with the situation said.
"I think the talks are stalled right now," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama, the lead Republican negotiator, said on Fox News Sunday. "I'm not confident we're going to get there."
Lawmakers had been trading offers, trying to finalise how much money could go to barriers along the border as US President Donald Trump demands money for his wall. Trump has called for US$5.7 billion, but lawmakers were trying to find a number between US$1.3 billion and US$2 billion that would be acceptable to both sides.
At the same time, Democrats were trying to limit the number of detention beds that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would have access to. Democrats want to cap detention beds as a way to limit aggressive detention activities by ICE.
People familiar with the talks said that the question of ICE beds led to the impasse, as Democrats try to cap the number, while Republicans seek a way to exclude violent criminals from the cap.
"It's all over the map, and I think it's all over the map because of the Democrats," White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, regarding the status of talks. "The President really does believe that there is a national security crisis and a humanitarian crisis at the border and he will do something about it."
Lawmakers and Trump face a February 15 deadline to pass new legislation to keep the government open. If they don't, large portions of the government will begin to shut down.
The Homeland Security Department and other agencies are operating on a short-term spending bill that Trump signed on January 25, when he ended the nation's longest ever government shutdown after 35 days. The shutdown was caused by his demand for border wall money - and Democrats' refusal to provide it.
The breakdown in talks makes it uncertain how the situation will be resolved. Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build his wall with the military, but that option faces GOP opposition and legal hurdles.
The President is scheduled to travel to El Paso, Texas, for a rally tomorrow and is widely expected to focus on his demands for a border wall, a signature issue of his 2016 campaign in which he repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall.