‘No Wall, No Deal,’ Pence Says as Shutdown Drags On

‘No Wall, No Deal,’ Pence Says as Shutdown Drags On

Vice President Mike Pence made it clear that the president wouldn’t drop his insistence on funding for a border wall, which Democrats have branded a nonstarter.CreditCreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence flatly declared on Thursday that there could be no agreement to reopen the government without funding for President Trump’s border wall, laying out terms that Democrats had already rejected even as he called on them to negotiate an end to a partial shutdown that is approaching the longest in American history.

“No wall, no deal,” Mr. Pence said in a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill as Mr. Trump made a visit to the border to bolster his case for the wall, his signature campaign promise. “We’re going to keep standing strong, keep standing firm.”

“It’s time,” Mr. Pence added, “for Democrats to come to the table.”

But even as he appeared to invite Democrats for a fresh round of negotiations, Mr. Pence essentially blocked potential offramps for the impasse. He made it clear that Mr. Trump would not drop his insistence on funding for a wall on the southwestern border, which Democrats have branded a nonstarter.

And he indicated that the president was disinclined to accept the idea behind a bipartisan plan being developed in the Senate — similar to a measure that Republicans and Democrats supported last year, but that the White House ultimately rejected — that would trade wall funding for legal status for undocumented immigrants facing the threat of deportation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi also showed no signs of budging, urging the Republican-controlled Senate to take up a measure the House passed on Wednesday to reopen part of the government.

“We say to them: ‘Take yes for an answer. This is what you had proposed,’” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. “Why are you rejecting it at the expense of the health, safety and well-being of the American people? Do you take an oath to the American people, or to Donald Trump?”

The dueling comments underscored the intractable differences between Mr. Trump and congressional Democrats that have led to a stark breakdown in the newly divided government, with the president dug in on his demands and Democrats, now in control of the House, using their power to deny him. As the two sides grapple over who should be held responsible, the showdown has forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay and placed federal benefits for millions more in jeopardy, with the fallout being felt across the country in ways large and small.

Even as Mr. Pence spoke, there were signs that the partial shutdown, now in its 20th day, would almost certainly become the longest in American history, surpassing a 21-day lapse that began in December 1995. Mr. Trump tweeted that he would skip a planned trip to an economic summit meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the Republican-controlled Senate to take up a measure the House passed on Wednesday to reopen part of the government.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

At the same time, the only glimmer of a bipartisan compromise being discussed in the Capitol appeared to die even before it took its first breaths. A flurry of negotiations that began late Wednesday among moderate Republicans, including several facing competitive re-election contests in 2020, crumbled amid White House opposition.

“We’re kind of stuck,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who had spearheaded the talks. “I don’t see a pathway forward.”

“It kind of fell apart,” Mr. Graham added, wearing a dejected expression.

The short-lived negotiations were an attempt to revive a compromise that would have paired funding for a wall with legal status for young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, sometimes known as Dreamers. President Barack Obama created the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that allowed some of them to apply for work permits and deportation reprieves. But Mr. Trump rescinded the program in 2017, drawing a legal challenge currently before the Supreme Court.

Senators were also discussing including legal status for immigrants who were living legally in the United States under grants of Temporary Protected Status that Mr. Trump has revoked. But Mr. Pence said such issues were not on the table.

“We feel confident that the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional, and at that time, he believes that there will be an opportunity for us to not only address the issue affecting the Dreamers, but also a broader range of immigration issues,” he said.

Ms. Pelosi sidestepped a question about whether she would support a deal to reopen the government that included DACA, saying, “We haven’t had that discussion.”

“What we’re talking about now is just the president’s insistence on a wall,” she said. “We need to have comprehensive immigration reform. Democrats and Republicans know that.”

Republican senators who have begun calling on their leaders to bring up measures being passed by the House to reopen the government while the debate over border security continues said they were disappointed with the breakdown of the talks on a potential compromise.

“It’s very difficult when we’re dealing with people who do not want to budge at all with their positions, and that’s the president and Speaker Pelosi,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “They’re each very dug in on their position, and that’s made this very difficult to resolve.”

Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.


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