An argument over how best to allocate border security money now threatens to re-open fresh wounds for the 800,000 federal workers who missed two paychecks during a record 35-day shutdown in December and January. Even as both major parties show no appetite for another closure, the ongoing dispute over immigration policy could stifle efforts to keep the government running.
President Donald Trump has appeared to back off his demand for a full $ 5.7 billion to construct his proposed border wall — which led to the previous funding lapse. However, he has still made the case for physical barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, and will do so again during a rally in the city of El Paso on Texas’ western edge.
The last shutdown cost the economy $ 11 billion, according to a recent analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That figure reflects lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand. The report estimated a hit of $ 3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018.
Democrats have offered between $ 1.3 billion and $ 2 billion for physical barriers that Trump has demanded to secure the border from an influx of migrants, according to the source. In return, they wanted to cap the number of ICE detention beds for interior enforcement at 16,500. Currently there are about 20,700 beds.
Republicans have rejected that idea. Trump appeared to cite the proposal in contending Monday that “the Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens!”
“This is a brand new demand. Crazy!” he wrote in a tweet.
In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump also lashed out at what he said was the party’s desire to “cap … convicted violent felons to be held in detention.”
Currently, ICE interior enforcement covers undocumented immigrants who are criminals who are detained at places other than the border, as well as undocumented immigrants who are detained but are not criminals.
Congressional Democrats argue that limiting beds forces ICE to focus on criminals, not just illegal immigration. However, the GOP believes there are no reliable numbers on how many illegal immigrants are criminals, so they cannot support a cap. The difference has created the stalemate.
A potential solution would be a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government. However, neither party feels like a temporary spending measure would resolve the problem, and both appear reluctant to support the idea for now.
As Congress struggles to find common ground, Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to divert funds for a wall without congressional approval. Even many Republicans have worried Trump would set a dangerous precedent by taking that step.
Still, Trump has repeatedly argued he has the authority to do so. In one tweet Sunday, the president cited comments from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., arguing for the legality of a national emergency.
The bottom line, according to the Democratic source, is that prospects for a border security breakthrough currently seem bleak and, when the current agreement lapses at the end of the week, America could face another shutdown.
“We’re not in a good place,” the person told CNBC.