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Next govt. shutdown looms as congressional talks over border wall break down

By Jon Dougherty

Optimism that Democrats and Republicans could reach a deal to keep a portion of the government open after a three-week stopgap funding measure expires Feb. 15 are fading ahead of the deadline after negotiations over funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall broke down on Saturday.

Ahead of the weekend, there was some optimism that congressional negotiators could reach a deal that would keep all of the government operating for the rest of the year following statements by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) that a deal the president could favor was close.

Shelby, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told lawmakers privately this week that the president may be more amenable to the deal being worked out: Though Democratic leaders have insisted that language in the bill not mention a “border wall,” it reportedly contains funding for substantial barriers and/or fencing along portions of the border, the Washington Examiner reported.

“I gave a report on meeting with the president and I thought things were on the positive trajectory as far as maybe concluding the funding,” Shelby noted. “But we are not there yet.”

On Thursday afternoon, Shelby said the next three days would be crucial for Republicans and Democrats to hammer out an agreement. If one is reached, seven government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security would be fully funded for the year.

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    “We’ve got serious negotiations going on,” Shelby said.

    But apparently, those talks have gone nowhere, Bloomberg News reports, noting that Republicans and Democrats aren’t even talking to each other for the time being, according to two people familiar with the state of negotiations.

    The network reported further that, as of Saturday, it appeared as though negotiators were closing in a border barrier agreement for between $1.3 billion and $2 billion, according to people familiar with the talks.

    But the latest sticking point is now over detention beds the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency operates, said a person quoted by Bloomberg.

    seemed that negotiators were homing in on a proposal with border barrier funding of between $1.3 billion and $2 billion, said a person familiar with the talks.

    On Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared to begin managing expectations that though a shutdown isn’t the most likely of options, he “absolutely cannot” rule it out completely.

    “He’s going to do whatever he legally can to secure the border,” Mulvaney said of the president on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    “You cannot take the shutdown off the table and you cannot take $5.7 billion [for the border wall] off the table. But if you end up some place in the middle, what you’ll probably see is the president say: ‘Ok, and then I’ll go find the money some place else’.”

    Mulvaney then confirmed that the level of funding for the president’s border wall/barrier is “all over the map.”

    That likely led to the president’s Saturday tweet in which he criticized Democrats for, once again, opposing sensible border security.

    The president was also suspicious of Democratic leaders.

    All of which means that the next government shutdown is looming — which Democratic leaders obviously believe they can ‘win’ in the public’s eye.

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