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UPDATE 2-Trump, Democrats dig in ahead of meeting on government shutdown

Updated: 04-01-2019 20:47 IST
As a partial U.S. government shutdown hit the two-week mark, President Donald Trump and congressional leaders prepared to meet on Friday to discuss breaking an impasse pitting his demand for building a border wall against Democrats' call for alternative security measures.

About 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the Dec. 22 closure of about one-quarter of the federal government as Trump withheld his support for new funding until he secures $5 billion to start building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that he promised during his campaign.

Such a wall, he has argued, is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the southwestern border. When he ran for president in 2016, he vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.

It remained unclear how much progress might be made during Friday's meeting, which was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT) in the White House Situation Room, as both Trump and opposition Democrats dug in.

"The president isn't going to back off," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Friday morning.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took control of the chamber on Thursday, sought to separate the issue of the wall and government funding, and called on Trump and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to reopen agencies as border talks continue.

"The wall and the government shutdown really have nothing to do with each other," Pelosi, who has rejected any funding for what she has called an "immoral" border wall, said at a Friday event hosted by MSNBC.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said Democratic congressional leaders hoped to resolve the shutdown at the meeting. "I hope we will open up government," he told MSNBC in a separate interview.

Trump promoted the wall in tweets to keep the pressure on Democrats on Thursday even as they gained significant new power with their takeover of the House of Representatives at the start of a new Congress.

Late on Thursday, the House passed two Democratic bills to immediately reopen government agencies for varying lengths of time, despite a White House veto threat.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, rejected the House effort saying the president would not sign into law, although the Senate last month approved identical legislation.


McConnell faces increasing pressure from within his caucus, especially from vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2020, as several conservative senators urged action to reopen the government, according to media reports.

"We should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today," U.S. Senator Cory Gardner told The Hill on Thursday.

His colleague Susan Collins also called for the Senate to pass the funding bills, while several other Republicans urged an end to the shutdown, the Hill and New York Times reported.

Pelosi on Friday urged McConnell to bring the measures up for a vote. "The president can sign or not but he should never say, 'I'm not even going to put it on the president's desk,'" she told MSNBC, noting Congress can pass bills without Trump's support.

Legislation can become law with a veto-proof majority of lawmakers' support or if the president does not sign it or veto it within 10 days.

Vice President Mike Pence, in a television interview Thursday night, also suggested that in exchange for the wall, the White House could work with Democrats on so-called Dreamer immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children - an idea Trump had rejected on Wednesday.

"It's being talked about," Pence told Fox News.

Democrats back other border security measures aside from the wall, and their two-bill package passed Thursday includes $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items such as technology and cameras.

Without a deal to end the partial government shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security will not be able to bring some furloughed workers back to their jobs while others continue to be forced to work without paychecks for the time being.

Other federal agencies were also hobbled, including the Justice Department, Commerce Department and departments of Agriculture, Labor, Interior and Treasury.

The partial shutdown also is straining the country's immigration system, worsening backlogs in courts and complicating hiring for employers.

In a Dec. 11 meeting with Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said he would be "proud" to shut the government over the security issue and would not blame Democrats. He has since said they are responsible.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan Additional reporting by Susan Heavey Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)