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Trump Calls Congressional Leaders For a “Border Security Briefing”

About 800,000 government workers have either been told to stay home or continue working without pay until the shutdown is resolved.

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The Capitol is seen as New Year's Day comes to a close with the partial government shutdown in its second week, in Washington, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump has invited Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to what the White House is calling a “border security briefing” Wednesday, while a partial government shutdown hits its 12th day.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to attend the session. It is not clear if Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer or fellow Democrat and House speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi will be there, or whether the two sides will use the meeting to negotiate plans to reopen the government.

Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives when the new Congress opens Thursday, and Pelosi plans to hold votes on a pair of bills that would fund most of the shuttered agencies through the end of September and the Department of Homeland Security through February 8.

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Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday morning, Jan. 1, 2019, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week. VOA

The proposed legislation does not include the $5 billion in funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump is demanding in any spending measure he signs. Democrats have previously offered $1.3 billion in funding for other border security measures instead.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement late Tuesday that the Democratic plan is a “non-starter” and “fails to secure the border and puts the needs of other countries above the needs of our own citizens.”

Pelosi and Schumer have rejected Trump’s wall plan as “expensive and ineffective” and say Trump has yet to put forth a plan that has a chance to pass in both the House and Senate.

Ahead of their potential meeting, Trump and Pelosi traded comments Tuesday on Twitter.

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Visitors take their pictures at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week. VOA


“Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” Trump said.

Pelosi responded that Trump “has given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly to pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown.”

Before the shutdown went into effect, the Senate passed a stopgap funding bill that would have funded the now-closed government operations through February 8 without the wall funding. The House passed its own bill that did have funding for the wall.

Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues Tuesday that lawmakers in the Senate should now support the new Democratic plan after their earlier action, and that if they reject it, then they would be “fully complicit in chaos and destruction” caused by the ongoing shutdown.

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A closed sign is displayed at The National Archives entrance in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its third week. VOA

About 800,000 government workers have either been told to stay home or continue working without pay until the shutdown is resolved.

Also Read: Donald Trump to Slow Down US Withdrawal From Syria: Republican Senator

Tourists in Washington are seeing new effects of the impasse Wednesday as the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo close until a deal is reached. The National Gallery of Art will be closed starting Thursday. (VOA)

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Signs Of The U.S. Government Shutdown Ending May Soon Be Emerging

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats.

President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon. VOA

The first tangible signs of movement may be emerging in the impasse that has shut down the government for weeks: President Donald Trump is promising a “major announcement” about the closure and the U.S.-Mexico border and Democrats are pledging more money for border security.

It was unclear whether the developments, following days of clashes between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might represent serious steps toward resolving the partisan fight or instead may simply be political posturing as the partial shutdown reached a record 29th day. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have gone without paychecks, enduring financial hardship. Many public services are unavailable to Americans during the closure.

The White House has declined to provide details about what the president would announce midafternoon Saturday. Trump was not expected to sign a national emergency declaration he has said was an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Instead, he was expected to propose the outlines of a deal that the administration believes could have the potential to pave the way for a shutdown end, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to publicly discuss details about the impending announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA


Democrats are now proposing hundreds of millions of dollars for new immigration judges and improvements to ports of entry from Mexico but nothing for the wall, a House aide said, as the party begins fleshing out its vision of improving border security.

Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.

Whatever the White House proposed would be the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he gave an Oval Office address trying to make the public case for the border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.

Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.

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Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, opposed to immigration raids targeting Central American families with children. VOA

In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.

It was possible Democrats would introduce that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump’s wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who leads the House Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, “What is our plan?”

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should “take the politics out of it” and “get to work” to “make a deal.” But he also repeated his warnings, saying: “We have to secure our southern border. If we don’t do that, we’re a very, very sad and foolish lot.”

Few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration’s hard-line response overwhelm border resources. But critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and they argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Trump’s Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.

It was the latest turn in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has played out against the stalled negotiations.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

Pelosi had suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a Washington tradition and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats. It is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.

Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi’s military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops. (VOA)