Republican and Democratic legislators were expected to meet again today in an attempt to reach agreement on border security issues and avoid another partial Federal government shutdown, following news that negotiations by a House-Senate conference committee stalled on related immigration issues this weekend.  Snagging those talks were concerns over immigration enforcement rules and how Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains people crossing the border.

The government is fully funded until Feb. 15, but budgets for some parts of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, will lapse on that date unless Congress and the White House agree on a further funding measure that also deals with President Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

On Sunday, the Senate’s top Republican negotiator on border security, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., placed blame on Democrats and suggested that the chances of a new partial shutdown were “50-50.”

“I think the talks are stalled right now. I’m hoping we can get off the dime later today or in the morning because time is ticking away,” Sen. Shelby said on Fox News Sunday. “The specter of a shutdown is always out there,” Sen. Shelby added.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, also appearing Fox News Sunday, concurred that a partial shutdown is still an option being weighed depending on what Congress does with border security funding.

“There’ll be some things that simply we couldn’t agree to. So, the government shutdown is technically still on the table,” Mulvaney said. “We do not want it to come to that, but that option is still open to the President and will remain so.”

The President lashed out at Democrats on Twitter yesterday, saying they were unwilling to make a deal.

“I don’t think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention,” Trump wrote.

Despite the frustrations of the President, key Democrats said yesterday that negotiations would be ongoing and that they are willing to make a deal happen—just not with the $5.7 billion Trump wants for a physical barrier on the southern border.

“The problem now is that we’ve only got about seven months left on the fiscal year. So, I don’t think the President can actually spend much more than $2 billion,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said over the weekend. “But of course, we’re willing to compromise, of course we’re willing to put more money into border security,” he said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a lead Democratic negotiator, said that negotiations were ongoing despite there being some hiccups along the way.

“Negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through. It’s give and take, it’s compromise, it’s the way government is supposed to work. We’ve got good people on this conference committee,” Sen. Tester said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.