Lawmakers try again to avoid shutdown as Donald Trump touts wall to sheriffs

Feb. 11 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said Monday that security at the U.S.-Mexico border “doesn’t work without the wall,” as another government shutdown looms.

Speaking during a meeting with a group of sheriffs at the White House, Trump highlighted the need for an expanded physical barrier at the border to keep criminals from entering the country.

“We need a wall, and all of the other things are nice to have, but without a wall, it’s not going to work,” he said. “We can have technology, we can have beautiful drones flying all over the place, but it doesn’t work without the wall. And we need a wall, we can call it anything, we’ll call it barriers. We’ll call it whatever they want.”

House appropriations committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., Senate appropriations committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., also held an afternoon meeting, The Washington Post reported to discuss border security.

Another partial shutdown could be prevented if the House and Senate pass stopgap spending bills that are approved by Trump before the Friday deadline.

Legislators hoped to reach agreed-to bills by Monday, but talks broke down over the weekend. The major issue involves the number and purpose of immigration detention beds at facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats, seeking to rein in the Trump administration’s enforcement policies, prefer a cap on the number of beds to force U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain criminals on the southern border instead of undocumented immigrants with no criminal history.

Republicans oppose a limit, arguing that ICE should have discretion over the uses of the beds, and that immigrants charged with or convicted of certain crimes should not count against the cap.

Trump administration officials blamed congressional Democrats for the stall in negotiations and said chances of another government shutdown are rising.

“The president is not a part of these negotiations. He’s waiting for a bill to come to his desk that he can sign into law,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Monday.

Trump expressed disdain for the impasse on Twitter Monday, hours before he was set to leave for a visit along the border in El Paso, Texas.

“The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens! This is a brand new demand. Crazy!” one tweet read.

Speaking to the sheriffs, Trump again said Democrats’ plan to limit the number of beds would prevent the country from keeping out criminals.

“Now it turns out, not only do they not want to give us the money for the wall, they don’t want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers,” he said.

The White House said it has a plan to declare a national emergency if lawmakers don’t come to agreement. Trump has said a declaration would allow him to redirect taxpayer money from other projects — bypassing Congress — to build sections of the border wall. Delays involving court rulings and eminent domain seizures could occur under those circumstances.

White House officials have said they’ll allow for negotiations before moving forward with an emergency plan.

The 35-day shutdown that ended last month left nearly 800,000 employees out of work or working without pay. Potential screening difficulties stemming from another shutdown at U.S. airports prompted the president of the Association of Flight Attendants union Monday to say flight attendants will strike this weekend if the government shuts down again.

Union President Sara Nelson said the labor alliance is planning demonstrations at major airports Saturday, which would be the first day of the renewed shutdown.

“We are calling on the public on February 16th. If we are in a Day 36 of this shutdown, for everyone to come to the airports,” she said. “Everyone come to the airports and demand that this Congress work for us and get politics out of our safety and security.”

“Most Federal Aviation Administration staff who conduct safety inspections of planes were furloughed, leaving critical gaps in safety,” Nelson wrote in an op-ed in USA Today Monday. “If these workers are locked out again, there will be a higher chance of issues such as mechanical failures, planes grounded and flights canceled because aircraft can’t get certified.”

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