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U.S. House Democrats manoeuver to end shutdown, without Trump wall money

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By Reuters
U.S. House Democrats manoeuver to end shutdown, without Trump wall money
FILE PHOTO: A sign declares the National Archive is closed due to a partial federal government shutdown in Washington, U.S., December 22, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo   -   Copyright  Joshua Roberts(Reuters)

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pushing a proposal to end a partial U.S. government shutdown now in its 10th day, Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to hold a vote on Thursday on a funding package that would not include the $5 billion (3.92 billion pounds) President Donald Trump has demanded for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The two-part package will include a bill to keep funding for the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8 with $1.3 billion for border security, as well as measures to fund other shuttered agencies through the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year, Democratic congressional aides said on Monday.

Democrats formally take control of the House from Trump’s fellow Republicans on Thursday after winning a majority of seats in November’s mid-term congressional elections. If approved in the House, the package would go next to the Republican-led Senate. Its prospects there appeared uncertain.

The Democratic legislation will mark the first major battle pitting the incoming Democratic House majority led by Nancy Pelosi against Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said his chamber will not consider any legislation that Trump would reject.

Democrats oppose Trump’s demand for wall funding, with Pelosi calling the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive.

Some analysts were optimistic the shutdown could be near an end.

“We attach high (75%) odds on the White House and new Congress resolving differences to the government shutdown next week,” said Charles Gabriel, an analyst at policy research and strategy firm Capital Alpha Partners.

Democrats expect their two-pronged funding approach could put Trump and his Republican allies in a tough position. If they reject funding bills for departments unconnected to border security, Republicans could be seen to hold those agencies and their roughly 800,000 workers hostage to Trump’s wall demand.

A senior Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Senate Democrats support the House legislative plan and that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has been in constant contact with Pelosi about it.

The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22 after progress towards keeping the government operating derailed over Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a wall that was a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign and he has called crucial to combating illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“I campaigned on Border Security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful Wall. Our Southern Border has long been an ‘Open Wound,’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday.

That project, with a total estimated price tag of $23 billion, is viewed by Democrats and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as ineffective and too costly.

The homeland security piece of the Democratic package is based on a measure that has already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham)