Trump Says Border Plan a ‘Waste of Time’ If It Lacks Wall Money
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said a bipartisan committee’s plan to avoid another government shutdown will be a "waste of time" if it doesn’t include a border wall, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted that she’s open to some new fencing but not a wall to boost border security.
Trump has threatened a new government shutdown after Feb. 15 if a new spending bill doesn’t fund a wall or physical barriers. He also is considering whether to declare a national emergency and bypass Congress to get funds for a wall at the border with Mexico.
"On Feb. 15th, the committee will come back and if they don’t have a wall, I don’t even want to waste my time reading what they have because it’s a waste of time," Trump said in the Oval Office on Thursday. "Because the only thing that works for security and safety for our country is a wall."
House Democrats on Thursday provided a detailed offer that would provide no funds for border barriers, though it shows the party is willing to provide billions in new money for technology and personnel. A bipartisan conference committee on border security held its first meeting Wednesday in an effort to negotiate a deal, and staff talks are continuing.
"There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation," Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly news conference.
There already are vehicle barricades known as Normandy fencing along the border, and "if the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall," said Pelosi of California. "Is there a place where enhanced Normandy fencing would work?" she said, adding that members of the bipartisan conference committee should “have that discussion."
The president also told reporters in the Oval Office that he’s "not waiting for this committee," adding that work on a wall is already proceeding. "I keep hearing the words that we’ll give you what you want but we’re not going to give you a wall. If they don’t give us a wall, it doesn’t work. Without a wall it doesn’t work."
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that Republicans on the conference committee "are wasting their time."
"I knew that he wanted it all to himself," Pelosi said in response. "The president, who wants to have Congress become completely irrelevant in how we meet the needs of the American people? No, come on."
Pelosi said committee members will consider a “cost-benefit analysis” on the most effective and efficient way to secure the border. Top Democratic negotiator Nita Lowey of New York, chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, declined to comment Wednesday when pressed on whether she would accept any new fencing money.
Texas House Democrat Henry Cuellar said some new fencing could be possible if local authorities can control where it goes.
The Democrats’ offer includes $98 million for 1,000 new customs officers, $675 million for more imaging technology at land ports of entry, $400 million for other border technology procurement and $502 million for humanitarian aid for migrants.
Separately, four freshman House Democrats said in a letter that they want to "cut, do not increase funding" for the Department of Homeland Security. The letter was signed by Representatives Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The next meeting of the main negotiators is expected early next week. Pelosi said the committee needs to complete an agreement by Feb. 8 to get it through Congress by Feb. 15.
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