- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lawmakers tasked with finding a compromise on border security funding officially kicked off talks at a public meeting Wednesday at the Capitol, saying they’re determined to strike a deal ahead of the next government funding deadline of Feb. 15.

House Democrats rolled out a list of priorities they plan to include as part of their initial offer, including investments at U.S. ports of entry, technology, more customs officers and humanitarian aid for migrants who get taken into custody.

“Smart border security is not overly reliant on physical barriers, which the Trump administration [has] failed to demonstrate are cost-effective compared to better technology and more personnel,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, California Democrat, said Democrats are in the process of finalizing the proposal.

Coloring the entire talks is funding for President Trump’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Mr. Trump has pushed for $5.7 billion in wall funding in recent weeks, but Democratic leaders have refused to provide money for the wall and said they wouldn’t engage in border security negotiations until the government reopened.

Republicans on the committee kicked things off by saying they support physical barriers where experts say they make sense.

“I believe that we need a physical barrier … where the barrier works,” said Rep. Charles Fleischmann, Tennessee Republican, while adding that a wall is only one part of a broader solution.

The dispute over wall money ended up derailing spending talks late last year and helped careen the federal government into its longest-ever shutdown.

Congress last week voted to end the 35-day partial shutdown by extending government funding through Feb. 15 and kicked negotiations on a full-year homeland security spending bill to the 17-member “conference committee” that met Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has said there could be another partial shutdown in a few weeks if the package the lawmakers come up with doesn’t include enough wall money.

He has also said he could declare a national emergency, which could enable the U.S. military to build the wall. Democrats have vowed to sue if the president takes that route.

“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 earlier Wednesday.

Lawmakers on both sides are now searching for a way to avoid another partial shutdown.

In addition to the delay on the 2019 homeland security spending bill, Congress has also yet to pass six other full-year appropriations bills that would provide funding through September for agencies like the IRS, the Interior Department and the EPA.

Lawmakers have said they were close to finalizing those bills last year, until the dispute over the border wall derailed the spending talks.

The Senate in late December passed stopgap funding that would have kept the government running through early February. The White House had signaled at the time that Mr. Trump could support such a spending bill, which didn’t include additional money for the wall.

But amid a backlash from conservatives, Mr. Trump said he wouldn’t sign it, helping trigger the partial shutdown that stretched from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25.

Earlier this month, Mr. Trump unveiled a compromise package in hopes of ending the stalemate that included $5.7 billion for the wall, plus temporary protections for 1 million migrants.

But Democrats said the offer wasn’t generous enough and that they didn’t want to negotiate border security until the government was open again.

After test votes on Mr. Trump’s package and a Democratic stopgap funding plan failed in the Senate on Thursday, Congress on Friday swiftly passed legislation to fund the government through Feb. 15 — without new wall money — and Mr. Trump signed it into law.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide