On the first day of negotiations over a border security compromise, Democrats gave their opening bid: A plan that contains zero funding for a physical barrier.
A select group of 17 Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate met Wednesday for the first day of border negotiations. Formed after the federal government experienced the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, the group is tasked with reaching a deal by Feb. 15 or else face the prospect of another shutdown. However, it could prove nearly impossible for lawmakers to find a plan that can both pass Congress and earn President Donald Trump’s signature.
“If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!” the president tweeted Wednesday morning before the meeting.
Democratic members on the negotiating team demonstrated how difficult the process will likely be by offering a solution that contains zero funding for a border wall — a demand that Trump has continuously made clear is a deal-breaker.
“We’ve seen that walls can and will be tunneled under, cut through or scaled,” California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar stated, according to The Washington Post. “We cannot focus on archaic solutions in order to address this very modern problem. Technology works for securing the border.”
Included in the Democrats’ initial offer was funding for 1,000 additional customs officers, upgrades for ports of entry, new technology that can scan for drugs or other contraband in vehicles, and other measures.
Despite strong support from National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd and other U.S. immigration officials, Democrats — not eager to give in to Trump’s long-sought request — have been averse to funding a wall on the southern border.
“Our Border Patrol tells us they need physical barriers to help them do their job — not from coast to coast, but strategically placed where traffic is highest,” stated Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, a member of the negotiating committee. “It’s unfortunate the issue has become politicized,” the senator added. “That has not always been the case.”
However, Democrats may simply be playing their cards close to the vest as they gear for what will likely be two weeks of tough negotiating. New York Democratic Nita Lowey, the House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman and member of the group, refused to say whether wall funding was nonnegotiable.
“We’re open to everyone’s facts and figures,” Lowey said at a news conference.
During the record-setting shutdown that lasted 35 days, Trump demanded $5.7 billion for border wall funding. While Republicans are hesitant to enter another shutdown, the president has suggested that he is willing if he does not receive a bill that includes funding for a border wall.
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