Senate immigration talks fall apart

A last-ditch effort by a group of Senate Republicans to end the partial government shutdown and clinch a long-stalled immigration deal quickly unraveled on Thursday.

Senators said their talks were basically dead, underscoring the uphill climb any potential agreement has amid the entrenched border fight.

The shutdown is expected to become the longest in history on Saturday when it breaks the 21-day record set during the Clinton administration.

“I think we're stuck. I just don't see a pathway forward,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Five things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters. “I don't know who to talk to and I don't know what else to do.”

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Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: Trump pick doesn't have experience to serve as director of national intelligence Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The new American center MORE (R-Maine) after a closed-door Senate GOP lunch, said the talks had “run into some difficulties,” and blamed an unwillingness on the part of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBottom Line Immigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values Trump's intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE (D-Calif.) to make a deal.

“It's very difficult when we're dealing with people who do not want to budge at all in their positions, and that's the president and Speaker Pelosi,” Collins said. “They're each very dug in on their position and that's made this very difficult.”

Trump stormed out of a meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Pelosi and other congressional leaders after the Speaker said she would not agree to provide money for his wall on the Mexican border if the government were reopened.

With talks between Trump and congressional leadership making no progress, the re-emergence of the moderate group was viewed as a last-ditch effort to find a negotiated solution that would avoid an emergency declaration by Trump to build the wall. The president earlier on Thursday strongly suggested he could declare such an emergency to circumvent Congress.

Trump said Thursday that it would be “surprising” if he didn’t declare an emergency.

“If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it,” Trump said. “I would almost say definitely.”

The shutdown stalemate comes as Trump has demanded more than $5 billion for the border wall, and traveled to the border on Thursday to build public support for his position.

Democrats have pointed to $1.3 billion as their cap in any talks. House Democrats passed a package last week that would reopen the roughly quarter of the government impacted by the shutdown but it was blocked in the Senate on Thursday.

The senators working toward a deal had discussed pairing border wall funding and protections for “Dreamers.” They talked about having the Appropriations Committee review Trump’s weekend request for $7 billion in funding, while allowing the government to fully reopen.

But other Republicans were skeptical of the effort, questioning if the group could craft an agreement that mollified both Democrats and the president, who views immigration as a key issue with his base.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — White House to request emergency coronavirus funds | Trump backs off plan to house virus patients in Alabama | Court sides with Trump in family planning case Trump backs off plan to house coronavirus patients in Alabama after GOP objections On The Money: Republicans expect Trump to pull controversial Fed nominee | Inside Judy Shelton's confirmation hearing | Trump extends emergency declaration at border MORE (R-Ala.) said talks that didn’t include Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House asking Congress for .5 billion to fight coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Senate Democrats urge Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference MORE (D-N.Y.) and Trump working out their differences were “wasting our time.”

“You can make a lot of noise, you can create some optics. But will you create substance? I don’t think so,” Shelby said.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, added that “the gang concept really only works if you have a president willing to sign whatever the gang is willing to advocate, and I don’t see that happening.”

Trump has sent mixed signals over his willingness to do make a deal on “Dreamers”—immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. He told reporters on Thursday that he was interested in doing an immigration deal simultaneously with the current fight over the border wall, adding that the administration “could help the dreamers.”

But he indicated to senators during a closed-door policy lunch this week that he was not interested in making a deal on the Obama-era Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“At this stage in the game it doesn’t sound like the president would be willing to accept that. We addressed that a little bit yesterday in our meeting with him,” said Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsOvernight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire MORE (R-S.D.). “He did not show an interest yesterday in pursuing that.”

Vice President Pence reiterated Trump’s position while briefing reporters at the Capitol on Thursday, saying the administration was “confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional.”

The administration announced in 2017 that it was ending the program, which allows certain immigrants who do not have legal status to stay to work and go to school in the United States.

Though Trump’s suggestion he could declare an emergency to build his wall has garnered criticism from some Republicans, a number of senators acknowledged on Thursday that the latest setback in negotiations made that route more likely.

Graham noted that under federal law Congress has a brief window to try to block him but questioned if Democrats would be able to get 4 GOP senators to side with them.

“If he goes down that route, apparently under the statue the House can take up a privileged motion [and] disapprove the declaration,” Graham said. “It comes over here, Senate Democrats can insist we vote on it and if you get a majority to disapprove it doesn’t go forward.”

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Overnight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (D-W.Va.) has been pitching an immigration deal publicly and privately but said Thursday he had been told Trump wasn’t currently interested in a DACA-for-wall agreement.

“The only way I think there’s a way out now is for the president to declare a national emergency, fight it in court,” Manchin said. “There will be a number of groups lined up to fight.”

This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.