Jitters mount as second US shutdown looms after talks stall over border wall

Bipartisan negotiators in Washington are running out of time to reach a deal over Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall after talks stalled, raising the prospect of another government shutdown starting on Friday.

Leaders from both main parties sitting on a 17-strong negotiating panel must reach a deal over the disputed border security issue by Monday if there is to be time for Congress to pass legislation and Trump to sign it before the latest deadline of 15 February. Should they fail to reach agreement within hours, federal agencies, already exhausted after the 35-day shutdown that ended last month having impacted 800,000 federal employees, will yet again start to close from Friday at midnight.

“The talks have stalled right now,” Richard Shelby, Republican chairman of the senate appropriations committee told Fox News Sunday. “I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning, because time’s ticking away, but we’ve got some problems.”

Shelby put the odds of a deal being reached against a second shutdown occurring at 50-50. “I’m not confident we’re going to get there. The next 24 hours are crucial,” he said.

As jitters mount that the government might soon be inflicted with a second partial shutdown so soon after the first, congressional negotiators were trying desperately to overcome two sticking points. The most divisive appeared to be Democratic demands that a cap be placed on the number of undocumented immigrants held in federal detention centers.

Democrats want to impose the limit as a way of reining in the detention and deportation activities of the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has been enabled by Trump to take a more aggressive stance. “They are talking about cutting down on the number of [detention] beds which would force them to be released into the United States, it’s an open border policy… that’s not going to be supported by this administration,” said Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

By Ed Pilkington for THE GUARDIAN

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