Border wall impasse awaits senators returning to Washington

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE and Democratic leaders appear no closer to a resolution five days into a partial government shutdown that has furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers. 

The Senate is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. Thursday, but no votes are expected until Trump and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFirst woman sentenced for her role in Nxivm sex cult Ocasio-Cortez calls Trump a 'white supremacist' after debate Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse On The Money: 'One more serious try' on COVID relief yields progress but no deal | Trump tax bombshell shines light on IRS enforcement | Senate passes bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal MORE (Calif.) have a deal on a government funding bill.

So far there are no signs the two sides are anywhere close to an agreement.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House doesn’t expect any action on the floor within the next 24 hours, according to Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseGOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns House GOP leaders rally opposition to Democrats' scaled-down COVID bill COVID-19 talks hit crucial stretch MORE’s (R-La.) office.

Schumer’s office said there was nothing new to announce on Wednesday.

House GOP leaders indicated they are in a holding pattern until the upper chamber takes action on another spending bill.

The House last week passed a measure that would provide $5.7 billion in border security and wall funding and $8.7 billion in disaster relief. But that bill is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, with Democrats and the White House remaining at odds over funding for President Trump’s border wall.

Trump and Democratic leaders have only dug deeper into their entrenched positions since the shutdown started Saturday.

Speaking from the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump declared that federal agencies “are not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Talks were put on pause Wednesday as the president and first lady made a surprise trip to Iraq to visit U.S. troops, though Trump told reporters traveling with him that a wall is necessary.

“Whatever it takes. We need a wall. We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the southern border,” he said.

And House conservatives have been encouraging the president to stick to his demands.

“I don't see there is any situation where the president should give up on that demand,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsCOVID-19 talks hit crucial stretch Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting Sunday Shows: Trump's court pick dominates MORE (R-N.C.), who met with the president over the weekend, told CNN on Wednesday. “He is encouraging me and others to enter in discussions with Democrats, but as you mention I don't know that there is much progress that has been made today.”

Conservatives argue this could be Trump’s last chance to secure his administration’s funding request before the majority flips in the lower chamber next week.

“Most of what we’ve faced is really a wall of sorts with the Democrats who say that they are not willing to allocate a single dollar toward border security,” Meadows said.

Schumer and Pelosi say they are willing to wait until January when Democrats take over control of the House, at which point they plan to pass a funding measure, without wall funding, to reopen the 25 percent of the federal government that has been shuttered since Saturday.

The White House floated $2.1 billion — coming down from their initial demand of $5 billion for wall funding — without restrictions on how the money can be spent to secure the border. Schumer has offered $1.3, a proposal the president and conservatives aren’t willing to accept.

“I see no evidence he would accept anywhere close to $1.3 billion,” Meadows said.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOn The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Blockchain trade group names Mick Mulvaney to board Mick Mulvaney to start hedge fund MORE predicted on Sunday the shutdown could last into the new year.

“I think it’s very possible the shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday."

The odds of Schumer and Pelosi cutting a deal with Trump dimmed further after an 8-year-old boy Guatemalan boy died in U.S. custody on Christmas Eve, a tragedy that has inflamed the Democrats’ liberal base. He was the second migrant child to die in U.S. custody at the border this month.

Liberal activists are pressing Democratic leaders not to give any ground on border-wall funding negotiations, arguing a wall would validate what they call the administration’s “inhumane” border policies.

“There is no meeting in the middle on the wall,” said Charles Chamberlain, chairman of Democracy for America, a grassroots liberal advocacy group. “The wall is a red line for the progressive community. You cannot pay for this wall with American taxpayer dollars and consider that an acceptable compromise.”

Chamberlain also rejected Trump’s modified request for a “steel slat barrier” or fencing.

“The reason why that’s an acceptable solution for Trump is because he knows that’s still his wall,” he said. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina MORE (R-Ky.) who has brokered high-profile compromises during past breakdowns in negotiation — such as over the debt limit in 2011 and the fiscal cliff in 2012 — is steering clear of the talks, at least for now.

His staff on Wednesday reiterated that the talks are between Trump, Schumer and Pelosi.

McConnell, however, will have a tough decision if the shutdown lasts until January and Democrats send the GOP-controlled Senate a clean resolution to reopen the government.