WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting on Wednesday prepared to offer President Donald Trump an increase in border security funding as part of a deal to reopen the federal government, but insisted any bump in spending will not include money for a southern border wall.
“We are prepared to spend a very substantial sum of money because we share the view that our borders need to be secure,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters after a House Democratic Caucus meeting.
House Democratic leaders are preparing a letter to Trump, likely to be delivered on Thursday, that will outline their proposal for increased spending on border security personnel and technology beyond the $1.3 billion they previously offered. Trump has insisted any deal to end the five-week-old shutdown include $5.7 billion for a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.
The effort by House Democrats comes as the Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on dueling pieces of legislation to reopen the government after 33 days of a partial shutdown that has shuttered nearly a dozen agencies and has left 800,000 federal workers without pay.
A Senate GOP measure backed by Trump would reopen the government in exchange for $5.7 billion in border security funding, a three-year extension of two immigration programs that shield some 1 million immigrants from deportation, and limits to Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. Democrats have filed a bill that calls for the immediate reopening of the federal government until Feb. 8, devoid of any wall funding. Despite Republicans holding a 53-seat majority in the chamber, both measures are unlikely to gather enough votes to cross the chamber’s 60-vote threshold.
House Democrats described their yet to be delivered letter as a step toward reviving talks with Trump and breaking the stalemate over border wall funding.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the No. 3 ranking Democrat, suggested House Democrats are prepared to meet Trump’s $5.7 billion figure, but the money would not be directed to a wall; instead it would be allocated for other border security enhancements, such as increased law enforcement and improved technology at ports of entry.
“More judges, more border control, additional technology — these are the kinds of things that we are going to be putting forward, and I think can be done using the figure that the president has put on the table,” Clyburn said.
Hoyer stopped short of detailing a figure, telling reporters only that the letter to Trump will “articulate what we believe is an effective investment to accomplish border security.”
As Democratic leaders sought to portray a united front behind their plan, a separate group of 30 rank-and-file House Democrats, including Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) signed a letter to Pelosi, urging her to guarantee Trump a vote on his border wall request as long as he agrees to immediately fund the government, according to the news outlet Roll Call.
“We promised our constituents that we would seek bipartisan solutions, and we feel that this proposal would gain bipartisan support and allow a transparent process to evaluate the true needs of border security,” the Democrats wrote in their letter.