Border security talks have not progressed through weekend, growing concern deal won't come together

Posted at 10:41 AM, Feb 10, 2019

Border security negotiations, for days considered on the path to a weekend agreement, have not progressed, and members on both sides have started to discuss whether backstop alternatives to prevent another government shutdown are necessary, three sources involved told CNN.

Two of the sources said the talks were ongoing and had not completely fallen apart, but both sides of the talks were considering whether there was a path forward to a broader deal.

The outstanding issues -- the level of funding for border barriers as well as funding increases for detention facilities and personnel -- were not new and have long been the sticking points in the talks. But negotiators on both sides told reporters late last week that they believed they were on the path to resolving the issues.

President Donald Trump signed a short-term spending bill last month to end the longest federal government shutdown on record, putting into place a three-week stopgap bill that would fund the closed aspects of the government through February 15 without funding his border wall with Mexico.

He said at the time that bipartisan congressional negotiators would discuss border security and reserved the possibility he would declare a national emergency to build the border wall. Congressional negotiators have met to discuss border security since Trump signed the stopgap measure, and as the coming deadline neared, key figures appeared optimistic that a deal could be reached, as CNN previously reported.

That optimism waned through the weekend, and Democratic conferees were expected to meet Sunday morning to discuss next steps as the border negotiations floundered. Two sources involved said if the bipartisan talks continued at an impasse, House Democrats were considering moving a package that would include a continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security through September along with six other outstanding funding measures at full year levels.

A Democratic aide briefed on talks said the discussions "broke down" on Saturday after the Senate GOP rejected their position on limits for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds in the interior of the country. The source said there was progress on border barriers and detention beds, but that Democrats "cannot agree to physical barrier spending above the level we want without GOP concessions on ICE."

Another aide told CNN they would be "very surprised" if anything came together Sunday.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of GOP leadership, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she hoped there would not be another government shutdown and insisted an agreement include funding for a barrier at the border.

"I'm hopeful that this committee will be able to come up with a proposal that we can all support, that the President can sign," Cheney said. "But it's going to have to include funding that will allow us to secure the border, and it will have to include funding for some sort of a barrier."

House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday that he expected a balanced agreement and would be willing to support a deal that included $2 billion in money for a border barrier.

Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, one of the key figures in the talks, was pessimistic on Sunday morning, telling Fox News that the talks were "stalled."

"We're hoping we can get there," Shelby said, adding he was "not confident" a deal could be reached by Monday.