Federal workers will have to endure a new partial government shutdown starting Saturday if Republicans, Democrats, and President Donald Trump can’t agree on a new spending bill by Friday, Feb. 15.
So far, signs aren’t promising.
Over the weekend, talks between the two parties reportedly stalled after negotiators couldn’t reach agreements on two main issues — funding for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and the number of detention beds that should be made available to undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I think the talks are stalled right now. I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning because time is ticking away,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), one of the key negotiators, said to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “I’ll say 50/50 we’ll get a deal. I hope an pray we do.”
Shelby said Republicans were opposed to a proposal from Democrats to place a 16,500-bed cap on the number of undocumented immigrants that can be detained by ICE. On Twitter Monday morning, Trump called the proposal “crazy.”
But Democrats say forcing limits on ICE will cause them to only target criminals and end indiscriminate deportation raids in local communities. In May 2018, for instance, 49 undocumented immigrants were arrested in the Philadelphia region during a seven-day operation, and 107 immigrants were arrested in a September 2017 ICE operation that targeted 10 sanctuary-city jurisdictions across the country.
“To enhance national security and encourage more efficient immigration enforcement, Democrats have proposed a cap on the number of ICE detention beds associated with interior enforcement,” House Democrats said in a statement Sunday night to CNN. “This cap will force the Trump administration to prioritize arresting and deporting serious criminals, not law-abiding immigrants.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), another key negotiator, said he was still optimistic both sides would come to an agreement before Friday’s deadline.
“It’s a negotiation. Negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through. It’s give and take, it’s compromise. It’s the way government’s supposed to work,” Tester said on Fox News Sunday. “I’m very hopeful — not positive — but very hopeful we can come to an agreement.”
If Republicans and Democrats can’t come to an agreement, lawmakers could pass yet another short-term spending bill that gives both sides more time to negotiate. But acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump wouldn’t automatically sign anything placed on his desk.
“You asked me a question, ‘Is a government shutdown entirely off the table?’ The answer is no,” Mulvaney told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday.
Trump has also said he remains open to declaring a national emergency along the southern border, which would free up funds to enable him to fund his proposed $5.7 billion border wall (and would likely lead to a battle in court). Trump is scheduled to hold a rally Monday in El Paso, Texas, where he’s expected to once again make the case for his wall.
If there is no agreement signed by the president by midnight on Friday, the government will enter its third shutdown during Trump’s tenure. Nine federal departments — Treasury, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Commerce, and Justice — would shut down again.
More than 420,000 federal workers deemed “essential” would be forced to work without pay, while roughly 380,000 employees would be furloughed without pay.