Administration reiterates $5.7 billion wall demand in closed-door briefing

Administration reiterates $5.7 billion wall demand in closed-door briefing
© Greg Nash

Democrats say administration officials reiterated President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE's demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall during a closed-door briefing on Wednesday.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.) said "they're sticking with the president's number," when asked if briefers specified a specific amount of money they want for physical barriers.

"The experts say $5.7 billion," Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told reporters. "They're still on the president's message."

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Members of the House-Senate conference committee tasked with striking a deal to resolve the months-long border fight and prevent a second partial government shutdown met with border officials on Wednesday.

Lawmakers emerged from the meeting describing themselves as optimistic they could reach a deal by Feb. 15.

"All of us feel the pressure to get it done … and I think we can," said Durbin.

But the meeting appeared to make no significant breakthrough on the specifics of an agreement, though lawmakers said it would need to include technology, personnel and physical barriers.

Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for the border wall. Democrats have rejected money for a physical wall, but signaled some openness to fencing or other physical barriers.

Cuellar added that he was willing to look at "enhanced barriers" but that his position is "we're not going to do $5.7 billion for a wall, no way."

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Some Republicans had indicated they were wiling to negotiate on the amount of funding for barriers.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon passes on Senate campaign MORE (R-Mo.) told reporters this week that both sides that "moved off their first positions."

"I think we’re willing to talk about different numbers," he said. "$5.7 is not a magic number, that’s for sure.”