They’re getting nervous now.
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Perhaps they’ve already forgotten the stories of federal workers living paycheck to paycheck growing desperate as they faced eviction or having to choose to buy badly needed medicine or to buy food for their families.
Perhaps they’ve forgotten the delays they faced going back to their home districts at airports hampered by longlines and security concerns as TSA agents working unpaid for 35 days started to call in sick so they could look for part-time work that would actually result in a paycheck at the end of the week.
Perhaps they’ve forgotten the warnings from the FBI about their inability to pursue their criminal and anti-terrorist investigations or from the air traffic controllers about the danger to the safety of anyone traveling by plane.
None of these concerns — so paramount just a few short weeks ago — seems to be able to get the negotiators in Congress any closer to a compromise deal on border security with only five working days left before the federal government will be forced to shut down yet again over President Trump’s insistence on his extortionate request for $5.7 billion in funding for the wall that he promised that Mexico would pay for.
This morning, news broke that the congressional negotiations had stalled over a compromise that would provide funding for 21st-century solutions to border security in the form of technology like drones and sensors, coupled with additional border patrol personnel and a token sum for augmenting existing physical barriers to help the president save face.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the lead negotiator for the Republicans, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) gave a pessimistic outlook on the talks with his Democratic colleagues to date.
“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Shelby said. “I’m not confident we’re going to get there.”
The Washington Post offered a few details of the hog-trading going on among the negotiation teams as they haggled over how much money to spend on the wall — or barriers if you’re a Democrat with no desire to be seen giving a penny to Trump for his wall — with legislators now seemingly trying to find a number between $1.3 billion and $2 billion that both the red team and the blue team could agree on — a number far below Trump’s initial demand.
The Democrats have also been attempting to tie the funding to a cap on the number of detention facility spaces that ICE could use, trying to limit the capabilities that the immigration police could access as a method of tamping down their aggressive enforcement actions. Republicans responded by seeking to exempt violent criminals from the numerical limit.
The signs that the talks were at an impasse were rampant on Sunday morning news programs as Republican surrogates took to the airwaves to try to pin the blame on the Democrats for the breakdown of the talks and any subsequent consequences that may result.
Those consequences could they be in the form of another partial government shutdown that would cause billions more in economic damage to the nation or in the form of a unilateral declaration of a national emergency at the border by President Trump.
Such a move that would invite legal challenges against the administration by Democrats while setting a dangerous precedent for a future president in the eyes of Republicans who envision a Democratic chief executive declaring a justified national emergency over climate change when the opposition inevitably regains power.
Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney gave the White House position in an appearance on NBC‘s Meet The Press.
“It’s all over the map, and I think it’s all over the map because of the Democrats,” Mulvaney said regarding the standing of the negotiations. “The president really does believe that there is a national security crisis and a humanitarian crisis at the border and he will do something about it.”
The president believes a lot of things that aren’t true, but he has a major decision to make by February 15th that will affect millions of Americans and unless he willing to give in — or is given a face-saving option that will allow him to declare victory in one way, shape, or form — the nation faces two options neither of which anyone wants to see take place.
Trump himself weighed in on the negotiations impasse via a typical Twitter outburst that predictably set the stage for blaming the Democrats for any of the consequences of his intransigence on funding for his unnecessary wall.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019
It was a very bad week for the Democrats, with the GREAT economic numbers, The Virginia disaster and the State of the Union address. Now, with the terrible offers being made by them to the Border Committee, I actually believe they want a Shutdown. They want a new subject!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019
Trump’s tweets mischaracterizing and attacking the Democratic position suggest that both sides in the negotiations are hardening their positions and that no simple solution is likely to be forthcoming.
Expect the next week to be extremely interesting.
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Original reporting by Erica Werner . Damian Paletta at The Washington Post