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Mick Mulvaney expects government shutdown to ‘drag on a lot longer’

January 6, 2019

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney says he hopes more progress can be made Sunday in negotiations on how to end a partial government shutdown, but indicated that the two sides are still far apart on the issue of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mr. Mulvaney said that congressional and administration negotiators couldn’t even get a grasp of basic definitions during a Saturday session.

“The discussion immediately turned to a bunch of technical requirements or technical requests that the Democrats were asking for for the first time ever in these negotiations, so I think this is going to drag on a lot longer,” Mr. Mulvaney said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think that’s, that’s by, by intention.”

Mr. Mulvaney said some of the talks have devolved into semantic issues.

“We had a two-hour meeting over whether or not a 20 foot high, 30 foot high steel bollard, steel slat barrier is a wall or not,” he said. “That’s, that’s how, that’s how broken I think some of these discussions are.”

Mr. Mulvaney also said the president is willing to take a concrete wall off the table.

“What’s driving this is the president’s desire to change the conditions at the border,” he said. “If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help us move.”

A shutdown affecting roughly 25 percent of the federal government’s discretionary accounts has now stretched on for more than two weeks.

The White House is demanding more than $5 billion for a border wall in next year’s spending bills, but Democrats say President Trump should accept the $1.3 billion in current-year funding and that they don’t want to negotiate the issue with parts of the government still closed.

The House approved legislation last week that would fully fund most of the affected departments through Sept. 30 and provide funding for homeland security through Feb. 8.

But the White House has rejected that plan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’s not going to take up bills that the president won’t sign.

Mr. Mulvaney also said he thinks it was “very, very difficult” for Democrats to come to a deal before Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally won her leadership post on Thursday.

“I really do believe that if they had cut a deal, any deal that would allow any money to be spent on any barrier, it might’ve cost her her speakership,” he said. “We had hoped that after her election, we’d be able to sort of kick-start these negotiations again, but it’s not happened yet.”

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