6 Jan 2019

Border wall: No breakthrough in US shutdown talks

4:06 pm on 6 January 2019

Senior Trump administration officials and Democratic congressional staffers have failed to end a partial government shutdown, but will meet again on Sunday (US time).

US Vice President Mike Pence (2nd L), White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (C) and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (L) on January 5, 2019 in Washington, DC, after a meeting  on the government shutdown. AFP

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, US Vice President Mike Pence, second left, senior adviser Jared Kushner, top right, and other officials leave the meeting at the White House. Photo: AFP

President Donald Trump is demanding $US5.6 billion to build a wall along the United States border with Mexico but Democrats in control of the House of Representatives this week passed a bill to reopen the government without providing additional funding for the wall.

Mr Trump says he will not sign the bill until he gets the money for the wall.

Vice President Mike Pence led the administration's team in a meeting with Democratic negotiators on Saturday. An aide to Mr Pence said the meeting was "productive" but that there was "no in-depth conversation about a dollar figure".

FILE - DECEMBER 14, 2018: Mick Mulvaney will be named acting chief of staff Getty Images/AFP

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was surprised today's meeting achieved very little. Photo: Getty Images / AFP

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told CNN: "We didn't make much progress at the meeting, which was surprising to me."

The two sides agreed to meet again on Sunday.

A Democratic aide familiar with the meeting said Democratic staffers urged the administration to reopen the government, arguing that progress on the contentious issue of border security would be difficult while the government was closed.

The aide said the administration instead "doubled down on their partisan proposal that led to the Trump shutdown in the first place".

With the two sides sticking to their positions, a quarter of the federal government has been closed for two weeks, leaving 800,000 public workers unpaid.

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser, also attended the meeting at the White House, along with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Mr Mulvaney.

They were negotiating with senior staff for the top Democrats in Congress, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer.

Ms Pelosi, the new Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said this week that Mr Trump's proposed wall was "immoral" and a "waste of money."

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed that 50 percent of the public blame Mr Trump for the shutdown and 7 percent blame Republican lawmakers, against 32 percent who blame Democrats.

Still, Mr Trump reiterated his demand for a border wall in a series of tweets on Saturday.

"The Democrats could solve the Shutdown problem in a very short period of time," Mr Trump said. "All they have to do is approve REAL Border Security (including a Wall), something which everyone, other than drug dealers, human traffickers and criminals, want very badly!"

Mr Trump threatened on Friday to take the step of using emergency powers to build the wall without Congress' approval. Such a move would almost certainly be met with legal challenges.

- Reuters