Negotiators are in a hurry to reach a deal on border security that would be approved by both chambers of Congress and would prevent a second government shutdown in a matter of weeks.
Lawmakers have only days to do so before the February 15 deadline expires. Should they fail to reach an agreement by then, about a quarter of the federal government will shut down again.
But negotiators are facing significant obstacles, especially concerning the amount of funding for the President’s proposed border wall.
“I hope that we will do our job. Will we? That’s the question of the hour,” said Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Lawmakers initially hoped to strike a deal by this Friday and give Congress enough time to consider the deal, but they have already given up on that idea. They must, however, release legislation by Monday the latest due to the House’s 72-hour rule, which requires that legislation receives a vote on the floor three days after it is released.
But some have expressed concern that no deal can be reached in such a short time.
“I just don’t think we have enough time,” said Representative Kay Granger, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. “It’s just if the deadline is Friday it’s going to be very difficult.”
She was, however, more confident that something would be done by Monday. There has been some behind-the-scenes progress and staffers and lawmakers are expecting around-the-clock talks through the weekend.
On Wednesday, border officials briefed the members of the bipartisan conference committee for almost two hours, which apparently resulted in some progress being made.
“I feel like we’ve taken a step forward and are now ready to put the pencils on the papers and get back to work,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who heads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.