Confusion over Trump's border wall delays spending talks

Confusion over Trump's border wall delays spending talks
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Senate negotiators say a lack of clarity from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL players stand in tunnel during anthem, extending protests 12 former top intel officials blast Trump's move to revoke Brennan's security clearance NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes MORE about his plans for a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is holding up talks to avoid a government shutdown.

Trump has demanded tougher immigration controls and more border-security measures in return for relief for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients in the 2018 spending bill.

But Republicans and Democrats working on a possible immigration deal said Wednesday they're still waiting to receive Trump's specific demands for tighter border security to hash out a deal.

Republicans are now saying that a deal to fund the government might have to move separately from a bill that provides a DACA fix and tightens border security.

Democrats, however, say they extracted a concession from GOP leaders and senior Trump administration officials Wednesday afternoon to keep the spending and immigration talks linked as part of the same bargain.

The biggest question is whether Trump will insist on building a 2,200-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he indicated in a recent interview with The New York Times, or whether he’ll settle for increased patrols and surveillance.

“That’s something we’re waiting on the White House to give us clarity on,” said Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down House Intel lawmakers introduce bipartisan election security bill Trump officials look to neutralize cyber threats in supply chain MORE (R-Okla.), one of the negotiators. “When you talk to [the Department of Homeland Security] and the other individuals, they talk about technology, they talk about personnel, they talk about physical barriers."

“The president has just said, ‘I call it wall.’ Everything is ‘wall.’ But I don’t think he really means a 30-foot high wall for 2,000 miles,” Lankford added.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee plan to meet with Trump on Thursday to get a better sense of what border security needs must be met as part of an immigration deal.

Trump indicated in an impromptu interview with The New York Times last week that he would insist on a border wall in exchange for granting legal status to immigrants covered under the Obama-era DACA program.

“I wouldn’t do a DACA plan without a wall. Because we need it. We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall,” Trump told reporter Michael Schmidt. 

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But negotiators are somewhat confused by what Trump means when he calls for a wall.

The president appears in his public pronouncements to be calling for a 2,200-mile solid structure, while senior administration officials talk about the wall as more of a metaphor for tighter security.

“There will be wall components, not a 2,200-mile wall,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Flynn should lose security clearance Press needs to restore its credibility on FBI and Justice Department Trump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin MORE (R-S.C.), one of the negotiators, said before the Christmas break.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Dems seize on Kavanaugh emails to question role in terrorism response Trump gives thumbs up to prison sentencing reform bill at pivotal meeting MORE (D-Ill.), one of the Democrats working on a prospective immigration deal, said the reason Trump hasn’t wanted to put his proposal for a border wall on paper is because it would appear unfeasible and draw opposition from fellow Republicans.

“It has been almost three months since we asked the administration to provide us with a specific border security proposal. Still, I haven’t seen it,” Durbin said.

“What do you think ‘the wall’ means? Nobody knows. When they’re forced to put it on paper they have a problem. It’s too expensive and it’s controversial and there are parts of it that Republicans don’t like so they’re afraid to write it down. But they’re holding us up.”

Now some senior Republicans are floating the possibility that the 2018 spending deal will move separately from immigration legislation.

Government funding runs out on Jan. 19, and Congress has until March 5 to come up with a solution to protect "Dreamers" from deportation.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Ex-Trump adviser: Shutdown 'not worst idea in the world' 74 protesters charged at Capitol in protest of Kavanaugh MORE (S.D.) said Wednesday that he doesn’t think the spending package will include the immigration legislation.

“I think that can be handled it separately,” he said. “On this one you’ve got health-care extenders, tax extenders, you have disaster, 702, Alexander–Murray, you have a lot of moving parts,” referring to various provisions to extend expiring tax breaks, subsidize insurance companies for covering low-income people, authorize intelligence surveillance and provide disaster relief funding that will be added to the fiscal year 2018 spending bill.

Thune said a prospective deal on "Dreamers" and border security probably won’t be done in time to add to the spending bill.

“I don’t think they’re anywhere close. That’s not ripe yet,” he said of a possible immigration deal.

But Democrats are pushing back hard on the notion that the omnibus spending package will move without a deal on immigration.

A Democratic leadership aide said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain Name change eludes DHS cyber wing, spurring frustration MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC hits Dem House hopeful as 'Pelosi liberal' in new Kansas ad Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Wis.) agreed in a Wednesday afternoon meeting that the fate of "Dreamers" will be part of the broader talks on spending.

“The four leaders and White House officials agreed to keep negotiating a bipartisan budget agreement to lift the defense and nondefense caps, a DACA and border agreement, a health-care package, as well as a disaster aid bill,” the aide said.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTreasury retweets Trump, possibly violating campaign law Poll: Majority of likely voters support consumer bureau mission Top Republicans concerned over impact of potential Trump drug rule MORE and legislative affairs director Marc Short also attended the Wednesday meeting.