Border Security Stalemate Raises Risk of Government Shutdown

Photo of author


A dispute over border security funding threatens to force the shutdown of large swathes of the federal government in less than a week, as Congress and the White House struggled Sunday to reach an agreement on long-term spending legislation.

Funding for about 70 percent of the federal government – including the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security, as well as the IRS and Transportation Security Administration – will expire at 12:01 a.m. Saturday unless Congress acts before that date.

A prolonged shutdown could have cascading effects on the government and the economy. Two-thirds of IRS employees would face furloughs at the height of tax filing season. The approximately 1.3 million active-duty U.S. military service members would remain in their positions without pay. So would airport security officers, many of whom called out sick in protest during a previous shutdown, causing travel delays across the country.

As recently as Friday, congressional negotiators were closing in on a deal to complete a spending bill for all of those agencies, with the goal of voting on it as soon as Thursday. (Congress has Separate legislation has already been passed. funds the other 30 percent of the government.) But disagreements over immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that has derailed legislation throughout this Congress and emerged as a key fault line between the parties in the November elections , hampered the talks, according to several people involved in the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

Amid growing tension, negotiators for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) appealed over the weekend to the White House, rather than congressional Democrats, to participate in conversations about spending, revealing the tense nature of the conversations. The two sides had hoped to release the text of the bills on Sunday afternoon, but with deep divisions remaining, that seemed highly unlikely, said a person with knowledge of the talks.

Republican negotiators were prepared to offer the Department of Homeland Security about the same level of funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2024, which ends Sept. 30, that the department received in fiscal year 2023, plus some extra money for the immigration law enforcement, several people said. But due to inflation, that would represent a significant funding cut in real terms.

The White House rejected that proposal, the people said, saying even that amount of money would put the department in a dangerous deficit.

“Republicans have always said we will provide every resource necessary to enforce the law, but not a blank check to simply ‘manage’ people coming into the country and bail out sanctuary cities,” a senior GOP aide said Sunday. . “…House Republicans have repeatedly urged the White House for weeks to work with congressional Democrats to help address the severity of the situation, to no avail.”

Talks that continued Sunday afternoon, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, focused on where recipients hoped to direct border security funds: The White House wanted to preserve funding for detention centers to house immigrants. unauthorized, while congressional Republicans sought to send more money to Border Patrol agents to prevent migrants from crossing into the United States, possibly transferring funds from detention to border enforcement.

An administration official characterized Sunday afternoon’s negotiations as an effort to avoid “chaos” at the border, which could ensue if Congress shifts funds between different border security programs.

White House representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security, is already running out of money even with its current budget. Last month he wrote plans to release thousands of immigrants and reduce its ability to hold detainees while facing dwindling funding. More hospitable weather in spring and summer could attract more border crossings, officials say, further straining the agency’s finances.

Border issues have also complicated other financing measures. president bidenJohnson and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also remain at an impasse in talks over US spending to support Ukrainetalks that collapsed over attempts to tie the money to border security.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), released a proposal in February to bolster border security and reform some asylum processes in exchange for tens of billions of dollars in emergency assistance for Ukraine, Israel and other national security priorities. Biden expressed strong support for the package; Republicans rejected it at the request of the former president donald trump.

But even afterward, lawmakers said Homeland Security funding policy was so difficult that funders would likely have to resort to a long-term stopgap spending measure, known as continuing resolution, or CR, instead of the draft. preferred one-year financing law.

That approach may upset GOP hardliners, who want to use the appropriations process to extract concessions on immigration policy from Democrats. But House Republican leaders have sought to allay their concerns by arguing that they could address concrete changes to border policy in April. That’s when Johnson signaled plans to adopt supplemental legislation on national security funding.

Nick Miroff and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.

Leave a comment