Speaker Pelosi: No wall money in U.S. border deal talks

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said there would not be any money for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in the deal being worked out by a bipartisan negotiating team.

“There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” the top House Democrat told reporters, adding that more ports of entry or additional border technology was on the table for negotiation.

Asked by reporters about Pelosi’s comment on wall funding, Trump said: “Without a wall, it doesn’t work.”

The committee of Republican and Democratic representatives and senators met for the first time on Wednesday to begin negotiating a compromise on federal spending. Trump has demanded a $5.7 billion down payment for his promised wall.

The committee will likely have to wrap up its work around Feb. 10 to meet a Feb. 15 deadline set when Trump and lawmakers agreed last week to end a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. Otherwise, about 800,000 federal employees could again be furloughed or forced to work without pay.

Pelosi rejected as a “nonstarter” Trump’s offer of a temporary three-year protection for “Dreamer” immigrants in exchange for a permanent wall. The Dreamers are young people brought illegally to the United States as children.

The speaker also said she does not believe a bill to permanently end shutdowns should be part of current border security negotiations.

House Democrats on Thursday released to reporters a detailed summary of their opening offer in the negotiations. It did not include money for a wall or any type of new physical border barriers.

Democrats proposed giving Customs and Border Protection $98 million above last year for hiring 1,000 more customs agents, as well as $400 million for buying and deploying security technology, which would be $353 million above Trump’s request, according to a summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee.

Democrats also would put new constraints on the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to place in deportation proceedings the sponsors of undocumented immigrant minors who are in the United States without their parents.

Pelosi criticized a series of Thursday morning tweets in which Trump said the negotiators were “wasting their time” and he would build the wall on his own. The president has said he would consider declaring a national emergency in order to divert existing funds to build a wall, which would almost certainly trigger a court challenge. By law, Congress appropriates the money for federal projects.

“I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!” Trump wrote.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives to sign legislation during an enrollment ceremony before sending it to U.S. President Donald Trump for his signature to end the partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Pelosi said Trump would prefer Congress to be “completely irrelevant” in the negotiations.

“It is not a negotiation for the president to say … ‘it doesn’t matter what Congress says’,” she said at a news conference.

Reporting by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland; Editing by Susan Heavey, James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis

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