WASHINGTON –– Negotiations on a border security deal have hit a snag in a dispute over immigrant detention policy, Sen. Richard Shelby said Sunday.
House and Senate conferees were hoping to make a deal by Monday that would resolve the impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for a border wall and avoid another partial government shutdown when current funding runs dry Friday. But Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, put the odds of a deal at only "50-50," citing a partisan rift over Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"The talks are stalled right now," Shelby, R-Ala., said on "Fox News Sunday." "We've got some problems with the Democrats dealing with ICE that is detaining criminals that come into the U.S. They want a cap on them. We don't want a cap on that."
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, on NBC's "Meet the Press," said "you absolutely cannot rule out" a shutdown.
Trump has sought enough space to house an average daily population of 52,000 migrant detainees; House Democrats want to cut that to 35,520 for the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, phasing out family detention completely by then. A bipartisan Senate version of the Homeland Security bill, approved last June on a 26-5 vote, would have provided 40,520 detention beds.
And lawmakers were still wrestling with how much money to provide for physical barriers along the border. Sources said the final figure could be around $2 billion. That would be less than half the money Trump wants his border wall.
Mulvaney, also on Fox, declined to say whether Trump would sign a bill that includes about $2 billion for border barriers. He said the White House message to negotiators was "we'll take as much money as you can give us," but the administration would seek to supplement that amount on its own.
Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday: "I don't think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!"
Mulvaney said the administration could tap other funds through reprogramming and still has the option of redirecting additional money by declaring a national emergency. If all such options were used, he said, "The whole pot is well north of $5.7 billion."
Lawmakers of both parties have counseled Trump against declaring an emergency to fund the wall, saying it would set a precedent that could be abused by future presidents. Mulvaney said the emergency option remains on the table but Trump "would prefer legislation because it's the right way to go."
Democrats have been reluctant to provide any more than the $1.6 billion for border barriers that was part of a bipartisan Senate Homeland Security bill last year. But in recent days, they have expressed a willingness to consider more money for "enhanced fencing" if it were part of a package that included more funding for personnel and technology improvements on the border.
"Negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee. "I'm very hopeful, not positive, but very hopeful we can come to an agreement," he said.
But Mulvaney said he wasn't sure how much money Democrats were willing to approve for border security. "I don't think they know where they stand on this particular issue, and I think that's one of the reasons why we're having a difficulty coming to a deal," he said.
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