Second Shutdown Looms as Lawmakers Reach Impasse

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“I’ll say 50-50 we get a deal,” Alabama senator Richard Shelby said of talks between Democrats and Republicans.

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Despite efforts to avoid repeating the recent, 35-day federal shutdown, reports Sunday suggest Democrat and Republican lawmakers have reached another impasse ahead of Friday’s deadline for a deal. The latest issue is that of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s capacity to house migrant detainees, which Democrats insist on limiting to 16,500.

Per The New York Times, House and Senate lawmakers of the conference committee are unlikely to reach an agreement for government funding by Monday, February 11—an informal deadline before department and agency funding officially expires on Friday, February 15. Congress would use this week to review any settled legislation before passing it, and now “an aide familiar with the talks said lawmakers had stopped communicating.”

Rather than contesting President Trump’s infamous border wall—lawmakers are said to be considering between $1.3 billion and $2 billion for physical barriers—Democrats and Republicans are instead debating ICE’s mandate. Limiting the organization’s capacity to detain immigrants with overstayed visas would shift ICE’s focus to migrants with criminal records, or so Democrats hope.

President “Calls for Unity” was quick to denounce the plan over Twitter, simultaneously accusing Democrats of underbidding his beloved wall:

“How in the world after that [State of the Union speech} does he sign a bill that would reduce the bed spaces available for violent offenders?” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham during a Sunday Fox News appearance. Alabama senator Richard Shelby said in a separate interview, “I’ll say 50-50 we get a deal. The specter of a shutdown is always out there.”

In the meantime, President Trump is still entertaining a declaration of natural emergency to fund his border wall, should a deal this week not earn his satisfaction. Any such decree would likely see critics filing suit in court to block construction and halt any funds shifted to the project.

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