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 ShelbyMcConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November MORE (R-Ala.) on Tuesday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest 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 LoweyHouse votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November The Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution Two years after Maria, Puerto Rico awaits disaster funds MORE (N.Y.), the lead Democratic negotiator, at around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Bill to return B in unredeemed bonds advances 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.