GOP negotiator: Trump didn’t move the needle on border wall

GOP negotiator: Trump didn’t move the needle on border wall
© Greg Nash

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (R-Ala.) on Tuesday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE’s State of the Union address did little to alter the dynamics of negotiations over his proposed border wall, which are stuck at an impasse. 

Shelby, a key negotiator, said he hopes for a breakthrough in the talks beginning as soon as Wednesday but conceded that Trump’s address to the nation did not cover any new ground. 

“I hadn’t heard anything new tonight. He reiterated his position, which he’s continued to do,” Shelby said.

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Asked whether the speech might make it easier to reach a compromise, Shelby said, “I don’t think it matters. I think it’s a reiteration of his basic position.” 

Trump noted that he has sent to Congress what he called “a common sense proposal to end the crisis on our southern border.” 

“I’ll get it built,” he vowed, calling his proposal “a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier — not just a simple concrete wall.”

“It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down,” he said.

Shelby said experts are scheduled to testify Wednesday before a special Senate-House conference negotiating a deal on border security and voiced hope that it could have more impact. 

“Tomorrow we might create a dynamic to move us together,” he said. “We’re going to hear from the professionals and see what they want or what they need."

“It could move us off the dime,” he added, describing the tone of the conferees as “good.” 

Shelby said he had a conversation with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break House Dems at odds with Senate in .5 billion border bill House Democrats close to finalizing border aid bill MORE (N.Y.), the lead Democratic negotiator, at around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (Del.), a Democratic centrist who participated in preliminary bipartisan talks on border security during the 35-day government shutdown, also said he didn’t think Trump’s speech would have much impact. 

“While he tried to strike a unifying tone in a number of moments or passages, when he focused on immigration and the border it was with such a dark and divisive tone. He chose to cite specific examples in a way that I think only moves or inspires folks who were solidly on board with his view,” Coons said. 

The president argued that “tens of thousands of innocent Americas are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border” and claimed that MS-13, a “savage gang” operating in 20 states, has also come across the southern border.