WASHINGTON — With the clock ticking on the temporary deal that reopened the government, all eyes are on finding a compromise on immigration before that funding expires in less than three weeks.
Congressional leaders from both parties blamed the other side for the historic and unpopular shutdown on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” but they agreed on the idea of protecting government workers from the effects of future shutdowns while offering general support for more border fencing as a central piece of any long-term deal.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. said Democrats were largely to blame for the shutdown for refusing to agree to provide funding for President Trump's border wall. “The president is the only one who has been reasonable in these negotiations,” McCarthy said.
“Democrats have always in the past voted for some barrier, and now they are not going to because it’s being offered by President Trump, that's politics.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., blasted the idea that Trump’s proposed wall is a realistic option to securing the border from illegal immigration.
“Spending billions on a medieval border wall that would be ineffective would be a waste of taxpayer dollars—a fifth century solution to a 21st century problem.”
“What we want to support over the next few weeks is 21st century border security.”
Jeffries did, however, offer some concession in the idea that Democrats believe “enhanced fencing” is a “reasonable” ask as part of the discussion.
And he kept the door open on holding a vote on a compromise that isn’t supported by the majority of his caucus, arguing that Democrats “have discussed proceeding in a strongly bipartisan way.”
The government is officially open for business once again after President Trump signed a bill extending funding for certain agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, through Feb. 15.
Despite promising to deliver a deal that would fund his call for $5.7 billion to build a border wall, Trump won no major concession, only an agreement by lawmakers to kick the negotiations to a select committee made up of members of both houses of Congress.
The deal means the federal workers will begin receiving their back pay within days, and be able to collect their next paycheck without interruption. But without a long-term deal, the government shuts down again in less than a month.
That reality has sparked discussion on Capitol Hill about passing measures that would either increase pressure on lawmakers to find a deal or keep paychecks going case of a shutdown.
McCarthy supported the idea, arguing that he’d support legislation that would cancel congressional pay in case of a shutdown. But while Jeffries agreed with the premise that Congress shouldn’t “pursue shutdown as a means of extracting leverage,” he called McCarthy’s support for that policy a “gimmick.”
Trump’s willingness to open the government temporarily without making progress on the border wall has frustratedsupporters on the right, leaving him to warn that he’d declare a national emergency on the border if Congress doesn’t fund the wall, or a comparable structure.
It's a warning that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney repeated on Sunday, suggesting that the president is prepared to make such a declaration. "At the end of the day, the president's commitment is to protect the nation, and he’ll do it either with or without Congress," Mulvaney said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
But many Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have raised concerns that route may not hold muster in court and could open up Pandora’s Box for future, Democratic, administrations.
“I think it would be a terrible idea. I hope he doesn't do it,” Rubio said on “Meet the Press,” before committing to fight against the president if he seeks that route.
“I don't think we'll have to fight — I’m not sure they'll end up doing that. I know it's an option they've looked at but now you are at the mercy of a district court somewhere and ultimately an appellate court, ultimately it may not even withstand.”
Rubio implored Democrats to help find a solution to the stalemate, arguing that he believes the president would be willing to trade the wall for more liberal concessions on immigration than he’s promised.
“If we can get something done that satisfies [Trump], I am confident that the president is prepared to move forward on a whole bunch of parts of immigration reform that people didn't normally associate with him or his White House,” he said.