White House calls Democrats' plan to end shutdown 'non-starter'

Washington, DC, USAUpdated: Jan 02, 2019, 07:25 PM IST


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The Senate and House of Representatives will meet briefly to mark the last day of the Republican-controlled 2017-2018 Congress.

US Congress was set to reconvene on Wednesday with no sign of a workable plan to end a 12-day-old partial federal government shutdown and President Donald Trump not budging on his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding.

The Senate and House of Representatives will meet briefly to mark the last day of the Republican-controlled 2017-2018 Congress.

When Democrats, led by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, take over the House on Thursday, they plan to approve a two-part spending package meant to end the shutdown. But its prospects are grim in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority.

The White House dismissed the legislation late on Tuesday.

"The Pelosi plan is a non-starter because it does not fund our homeland security or keep American families safe from human trafficking, drugs, and crime," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Trump, a Republican, has invited the top Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to the White House on Wednesday for what congressional sources described as a border security briefing.

Sanders said Trump remains committed to "an agreement that both reopens the government and keeps Americans safe.”

The spending legislation sets the stage for the first major battle of the new Congress between House Democrats led by Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump triggered the shutdown, which started on Dec. 22, by insisting that $5 billion for funding of the border wall be part of any spending measure. He calls the wall crucial to curbing illegal immigration, echoing his 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric.

The Democrats' two-part package includes a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Feb. 8 and provide $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items including technology and cameras.

The second part of the package would fund federal agencies that are now unfunded, such as the Justice, Commerce and Transportation departments, through Sept. 30.

The House Democrats' measure does not contain the $5 billion Trump wants. McConnell has said Senate Republicans will not approve a spending measure not supported by Trump.

"It's simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won't sign," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.

The Democratic package could put Trump and his Republican allies in a tough position. If they reject funding bills for departments unconnected to border security, Republicans could be seen as holding those agencies and their roughly 800,000 affected workers hostage to Trump's desire to build a wall that Democrats say would be ineffective and impractical.