WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican and Democratic members of Congress will open negotiations on Wednesday in search of a deal to fund the government and address border security, including the construction of a wall demanded by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The team of negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate have less than three weeks to come up with legislation to appropriate funds. The bill needs to be one that the president will accept before money runs out again on Feb. 15 or the government faces the threat of another partial shutdown.
Last week Trump agreed to temporarily re-open the federal government after a record-long 35-day shutdown even without the $5.7 billion that he had demanded from Congress to build the wall. Trump has made the long-promised border wall a key campaign promise and pledged that Mexico would pay for it.
He threatened to shut the government down again later this month if Congress cannot come up with a satisfactory deal, or said he would turn to a national emergency declaration to get the wall built — a potential move that both Republicans and Democrats have vowed to fight.
Trump’s fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, had stood by the president but faced increasing pressure as the impacts of the shutdown spread and public sentiment soured. Democrats, who took over the House this month after the shutdown began, remained unified in their opposition to Trump’s wall.
Some top Democrats have said they are open to paying for fencing or other physical border barriers in some areas but not a wall along the entire length of the southern border.
In an early morning tweet on Wednesday, Trump warned lawmakers that they must consider his wall.
“If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!” he wrote.
Even if congressional negotiators forge a deal, it is unclear whether Trump would accept it. Negotiators, who are scheduled to meet for the first time later on Wednesday, must wrap up their work around Feb. 10 in order to pass legislation in time to meet the Feb. 15 deadline.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)