U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to break through the budget deadlock appeared to be gaining little traction Monday, as another missed paycheque loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers and the partial federal shutdown stretched into its fifth week.
Despite the fanfare of the president’s announcement and the rush to release the legislative package late Monday, voting in Congress was not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seemed doubtful that the 1,300-page “End The Shutdown And Secure The Border Act” released by Senate Republicans had any chance of passing swiftly. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority but would need Democrats to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for bills to advance. Not a single Democrat publicly expressed support for the deal in the 48 hours since Trump announced it.
Details released late Monday highlight the centrepiece of Trump’s offer: $5.7-billion to build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border alongside temporary protection from deportation for some immigrants. The package would reopen the shuttered parts of government and boost some spending. To try to draw more bipartisan support, it adds $12.7-billion in supplemental funding for regions hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s office reiterated earlier Monday that Democrats are unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump reopens the government.
“Nothing has changed with the latest Republican offer,” said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman. “President Trump and Senate Republicans are still saying: ‘Support my plan or the government stays shut.’ That isn’t a compromise or a negotiation – it’s simply more hostage taking.”
While the House and Senate are scheduled to be back in session Tuesday, no votes have been scheduled so far on Trump’s plan. And senators, who will be given 24-hour notice ahead of voting, have yet to be recalled to Washington.
McConnell spokesman David Popp said Monday that the GOP leader “will move” to vote on consideration of the president’s proposal “this week.”
Trump, who on Sunday lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of acting “irrationally,” continued to single her out on Twitter.
“If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are ‘immoral,’ why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the U.S. and Mexico,” he wrote Monday. “Let millions of unchecked ‘strangers’ just flow into the U.S.”
House Democrats this week are pushing ahead with voting on their own legislation to reopen the government and add $1-billion for border security – including 75 more immigration judges and infrastructure improvements – but no funding for the wall.
Trump later tweeted: “Democrats are kidding themselves (they don’t really believe it!) if they say you can stop Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking and Caravans without a Wall or Steel Barrier. Stop playing games and give America the Security it deserves. A Humanitarian Crisis!”
Meanwhile, the impact of the shutdown – the longest ever – continued to ripple across the nation as it stretched into its 31st day.
The Transportation Security Administration said the percentage of its airport screeners missing work hit 10 per cent on Sunday – up from 3.1 per cent on the comparable Sunday a year ago.
The screeners, who have been working without pay, have been citing financial hardship as the reason they can’t report to work. Even so, the agency said it screened 1.78 million passengers Sunday with only 6.9 per cent having to wait 15 minutes or longer to get through security.
The shutdown had also threatened to disrupt plans for an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the civil rights leader was co-pastor with his father from 1960 until his assassination in 1968. The site is run by the National Park Service and had been closed. But a grant from Delta Air Lines is keeping the church and associated sites, including the home where King was born, open through Feb. 3.
Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones for three years in exchange for $5.7-billion for his border wall. Democrats said the proposal for a three-year extension didn’t go nearly far enough, and that Trump was using as leverage programs that he had targeted. Meanwhile, some on the right, including conservative commentator Ann Coulter, accused Trump of offering “amnesty.”
“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,” Trump tweeted Sunday, in response. He noted that he’d offered temporary protections for the immigrants in question, but added: “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.”
That statement led some to suggest that Trump might be open to including a potential pathway to citizenship for the young “Dreamer” immigrants in a future proposal to end the standoff.
Asked in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” whether Trump’s Saturday proposal represented a “final offer,” Vice-President Mike Pence said the White House was willing to negotiate.
“Well, of course,” Pence said. “The legislative process is a negotiation.”