House Democratic leader proposes $5.7 billion for border ‘smart wall’


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives floated the idea of ending a partial government shutdown by giving President Donald Trump the $5.7 billion he seeks for border security with Mexico but through various means other than a wall.

U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn told reporters that Democrats could fulfill Trump’s request for border security with a “smart wall” that includes drones, X-rays, sensors and more border patrol agents.

But Trump has demanded funding for a wall in a showdown with Democrats that has left 800,000 federal workers without pay amid a partial government shutdown that entered its 33rd day on Wednesday.

Clyburn’s offer is a significant monetary increase over bills previously passed by Democrats, which included only about $1.3 billion for this year in additional border security, with none of that for a wall.

“Using the figure the president put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” Clyburn said.

The U.S. Senate has scheduled votes for Thursday on competing proposals that face steep odds to end the shutdown.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote on Thursday on a Democratic proposal that would fund the government for three weeks but does not include the $5.7 billion in partial funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Its prospects appeared grim. The House of Representatives has passed several similar bills but Trump has rejected legislation that does not include border wall funding. McConnell previously said he would not consider a bill that Trump did not support.

A visitor walks by the U.S. Capitol on day 32 of a partial government shutdown as it becomes the longest in U.S. history in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

McConnell also planned to hold a vote on legislation that would include border wall funding and temporary relief for “Dreamers,” people brought illegally to the United States as children, a compromise Trump proposed on Saturday.

Democrats have dismissed the deal, saying they would not negotiate on border security before reopening the government, and that they would not trade a temporary restoration of the immigrants’ protections from deportation in return for a permanent border wall they view as ineffective.

Trump’s plan is “wrapping paper on the same partisan package,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Eric Beech, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott



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