Washington — As negotiations between lawmakers to reopen the government continue to be locked in a stalemate, the White House is standing firm on its $5.7 billion demand to construct a "steel barrier" along the U.S.-Mexico frontier. It is also asking for billions of dollars in additional funding for immigration judges and border security.
The administration's negotiating team, led by Vice President Mike Pence, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, have provided Democrats with an outline of their demands for a deal to end the partial shutdown.
In addition to President Trump's unwavering $5.7 billion request for border barrier funds, the White House is demanding $563 million for 75 additional immigration judges and support staff, $211 million to hire 750 additional Border Patrol officers, $571 million to deploy 2,000 law enforcement personnel, $4.2 billion for 52,000 detention beds, $675 million for inspection technology at ports of entry and $800 million for "humanitarian needs," which include funds for medical support, transportation, supplies and temporary facilities along the southwestern border.
"Democrats want to secure the border? Great. Come to the table. We are ready to negotiate. We are willing to come to a deal to reopen the government," White House communications director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp told reporters Monday after confirming the administration's latest demands. "Stop the delay tactics."
Mr. Trump's rigid stance on border wall funding and Democrats' refusal to acquiesce to his demands suggest the prolonged shutdown — currently the third-longest in U.S. history — will continue to drag on. The president will deliver a prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday night andto make his case for a barrier, one of his signature campaign promises.
Newly-minted Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed that her caucus will not budge to the president's demand. Her counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said trying to broker a budget agreement with the president is like "negotiating with jello."
"Maybe he thinks he can bully us. But I'm from Brooklyn, if you let a bully succeed you'll be bullied against worse," Schumer told reporters Monday.
As Democrats have stood firm on their opposition to the White House's request, Mr. Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of bypassing Congress and proclaiming a national emergency to build a barrier along the southern border.
"I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days," the president told reporters Sunday morning. Asked if the White House is preparing to roll out a proclamation, Schlapp said, "We are finding ways to ensure that we can try to get what we need to secure the border."
Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, conceded on Sunday the president could use emergency powers to build the wall. "Unfortunately, the short answer is yes," Smith said on ABC's "This Week" when asked if Mr. Trump has the authority to use Department of Defense funding to erect a border barrier.
But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said such a maneuver will surely be challenged in court. "He's faced so many lawsuits when he ignores the law and ignores tradition and precedent and just goes forward without any concern,". "He'll face a challenge, I'm sure, if he's oversteps what the law requires when it comes to his responsibility as commander-in-chief."
Rebecca Kaplan, Arden Farhi and Alan He contributed to this report.
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