While Republican and Democratic lawmakers have indicated that negotiations over a long-term spending bill have been productive, the White House’s hard line on immigration threatens to scuttle efforts to avert a shutdown before the Jan. 19 deadline.
House and Senate leaders met with White House officials last week, and both parties described the talks as productive in statements. Congress has less than two weeks to approve a long-term spending measure, and lawmakers must agree on increases to spending caps. If lawmakers fail to raise the caps, limits under the 2011 Budget Control Act will be exceeded and a sequester will be triggered later this month.
But last Friday, President Trump sent an immigration plan to senators that included $18 billion in funding over the next 10 years for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Senate has been working on a deal to reinstate protections for people who were covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump announced last fall would end in March. Democrats have said they will not support a budget deal without a DACA fix.
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In a statement Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and one of the longest-running advocates of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, blasted Trump’s plan and said it could provoke a shutdown.
“President Trump said he may need a good government shutdown to get his wall,” Durbin said, citing a Trump tweet from last May. “With this demand, he seems to be heading in that direction. I’ve been clear from the beginning that Senate Democrats will consider reasonable border security measures in order to pass the Dream Act into law . . . It’s outrageous that the White House would undercut months of bipartisan efforts by again trying to put its entire wish-list of hardline anti-immigrant bills—plus an additional $18 billion in wall funding—on the backs of these young people.”
According to Politico, last week’s $18 billion wall request would fund 722 miles of border wall, including 316 miles of a new barrier.
Last month, Congress approved a deal to delay any shutdown until Jan. 19. Current caps restrict government spending to $549 billion for defense and $516 billion for non-defense agencies in fiscal 2018. As lawmakers negotiate a two-year budget deal, Democrats have said that, in addition to policy provisions like protections for people enrolled in DACA, they will only accept a deal that increases caps on defense and non-defense spending in equal measure.
In addition, 85 House members sent a letter last month to congressional leaders demanding that federal employees’ pay and benefits be spared from potential cuts to offset increased discretionary spending.