Lawmakers Scramble to Avert Another Government Shutdown

Lawmakers Scramble to Avert Another Government Shutdown

REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Collapsed. Derailed. Fell apart. Broke down. Whatever description you choose, the bottom line on the bipartisan congressional negotiations over border security isn’t good: The talks, which had appeared to be progressing toward a deal, ground to an abrupt halt over the weekend, raising the chances of another partial government shutdown at the end of the week.

What This Fight Is About: This time, the sticking point isn’t funding for President Trump’s desired border wall but Democratic demands to cap the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement beds available to detain undocumented immigrants arrested inside the U.S., not at the border, at 16,500. Democrats are seeking that cap in exchange for allowing some money to be used for physical barriers at the border.

Trump responded to the breakdown in talks by lashing out at Democrats on Twitter, falsely claiming that their demand for detention limits was new: “The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens! This is a brand new demand. Crazy!”

Democrats said they were pressing to limit the number of beds for detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody to make the agency focus on dangerous criminals and pull back on more sweeping deportation raids that they describe as cruel. “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,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), one of the negotiators, tweeted. (Read more about the issue here.)

Trump is set to hold a rally in El Paso, Texas, Monday night, where he is expected to again try to make his case for a border wall.

What if Lawmakers Fail to Reach a Deal? Four top negotiators — House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — met Monday afternoon to try to jump-start the talks and salvage an agreement. They were reportedly set to meet again this evening.

Lawmakers have until Friday, when current stopgap funding expires, to prevent another partial government shutdown, but they were working against a Monday deadline because of procedural rules for passing legislation, including one that requires legislation be released 72 hours before it comes up for a floor vote.

If the negotiators can’t reach a border security deal this week, lawmakers would need to pass another funding bill to avert a shutdown — and while the White House is open to such a bill, the two parties could still clash over the details, Politico reports.

How Does This All End? The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz outlines four possible outcomes:

1. They make a deal. Nobody wants a shutdown, so the pressure to strike an agreement providing funding for border security, including some barrier money, is real.

2. They narrow the fight. Lawmakers could fund the rest of the government and keep negotiating over Homeland Security. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promoted the idea of passing full-year spending bills for all unfunded government agencies except the Department of Homeland Security Department, which could get short-term funding, The Washington Post reported. Democrats had pushed for this during the 35-day shutdown in December and January.

3. They buy more time. A short-term government funding bill covering all unfunded agencies would prevent a shutdown and allow negotiators to keep talking. “It’s hard to imagine anyone agreeing to this unless a deal is very, very close, and a couple of more days are needed to reach the finish line,” Itkowitz says.

4. Another shutdown. It’s not completely out of the question.

And what about Trump’s wall? “No matter what happens,” Itkowitz says, “Trump has strongly suggested that he will declare some kind of national emergency and move money around to put toward the construction of a border wall.”