U.S. Government Funding Talks Fail; Congress Aims for Another Stop-Gap Measure

Shutdown 2..0
American soldiers string border wire at a fence along Texas' border with Mexico (Photo: Reuters)

The congressional panel consisting of Democrats and Republicans negotiating to fully fund federal government operations and avoid a second shutdown by Friday has failed to do so.

Adding to the gloom is a new wrinkle in the negotiations between a 17-person special Congressional panel. Republicans and Democrats clashed over funding detention beds for people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Republicans want to increase the number to speed-up immigrant deportations while Democrats demand fewer beds, said Reuters.

This new impasse ensured the collapse on Sunday of the talks to avert a new government shutdown. Some of the negotiators said that if Congress can't a border security bill by Feb. 15, they will move to pass another stop-gap funding bill to avert a shutdown and allow more time to reach a new deal.

There is also no reassurance further negotiations will succeed since Trump hasn't budged from his core demand of $5.7 billion to build the border wall with Mexico. Democrats, on the other hand, are united in their stand not to give Trump any money to build his wall but will fund border security.

"I think the talks are stalled right now," said Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the lead Republican negotiator. He said the impasse was over Democrats' insistence on capping the number of beds in detention facilities for people who enter the U.S. illegally. He placed the odds of reaching a deal at 50-50.

Democrats downplayed any breakdown in the talks. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) played down any collapse in the talks. "It is a negotiation. Negotiations seldom go smoothly all the way through," he said. Sen. Tester remains hopeful a deal will be reached.

No further talks are scheduled following the last meeting on Sunday.

On Jan. 25, Trump agreed to end a 35-day partial U.S. government shutdown -- the longest in U.S. history -- without getting the $5.7 billion he keeps demanding from Congress for a wall along the border with Mexico. This surrender is seen by political pundits as a big political win for Democrats.

Instead, a three-week spending deal was forged to give congressional lawmakers time to resolve their disagreements about how to deal with security along the Mexican border in a bipartisan fashion.

During the failed negotiations, Democrats proposed lowering the cap on detention beds to 35,520 from the current 40,520. In exchange, they would grant Republicans some of the money they want for physical barriers, according to a source privy to the negotiations. 

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