The outcome remains uncertain, as negotiators must cut a deal before midnight Friday on funding for a series of federal departments.
Key lawmakers expressed guarded optimism late Monday that they would be able to avoid another government shutdown, saying they were making progress in a series of late-stage meetings meant to resolve disputes about immigration rules.
The outcome remains uncertain, as negotiators must cut a deal before midnight Friday on funding for a series of federal departments. But after back-to-back-to-back meetings between party leaders, they signaled the pathway for a deal had emerged, even if some details remained unsettled.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was hopeful a deal could be reached Monday evening. «We’re working in good faith. I believe [Republicans] are too,» he said.
Leahy was meeting with Senate Appropriations Commitee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N. Y.) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.). The lawmakers are on a bipartisan conference committee charged with striking a border security deal to stave off a shutdown, which would begin Saturday unless the House and Senate pass legislation and President Trump signs it into law.
The discussions are the first major political test for Democrats and Republicans after a 35-day government shutdown froze the paychecks of 800,000 federal workers until Trump backed away from demands late last month. Congress was given a short reprieve to try to reach a longer-term agreement, with a focus on border security and immigration rules.
Negotiators had made steady progress behind closed doors until rifts spilled into the open in recent days, with Democrats and Republicans angrily accusing each other of trying to sabotage the talks and raising fears that another shutdown was imminent.
The central stumbling block was Democrats’ insistence on limiting the number of undocumented immigrants who could be detained. The White House wants more flexibility, saying it needs the ability to tailor rules for felons and violent criminals.
As the stakes came into focus Monday, leaders from both parties sought to bridge this issue and revive a compromise.
Granger offered a hint of optimism, telling reporters they were «possibly» moving closer to avoid a shutdown. And Lowey said she was hopeful as well.
«We’re still talking,» she said during a break between meetings. «As long as there’s talking, there’s life.»
Shelby urged caution but said there was a chance negotiators could reach a sweeping deal that addressed many of the unresolved issues, potentially eliminating the need to revisit budget and immigration issues until October.
«At the moment, I think odds have improved, but they still have not crystallized,» Shelby said.
White House officials and lawmakers viewed Monday’s meeting as a pivotal juncture that could determine whether more than a dozen federal agencies remain operating in five days.
President Donald Trump attempted to put the onus on Democrats to broker a deal. Asked by reporters Monday if the government would shut down again on Saturday, he responded «that’s up to the Democrats.»
Lawmakers had hoped to reach an agreement by midday Monday, a timeline they thought was sufficient to win House and Senate approval this week. But talks broke down over the weekend, leading to acrimonious finger-pointing and angry outbursts from the White House.
To avert a partial shutdown set to begin Saturday, the House and Senate must pass identical spending bills that Trump would then need to sign into law.
If no deal emerges, lawmakers and the White House would have to find some other way to keep the government open.

Continue reading...