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US Shutdown: To politicians meet to avert second shutdown

The top four Democratic and Republican negotiators in the US Congress on border security and its funding plan are to meet in an attempt to reach a deal that would avert another partial government shutdown.

House of Representatives appropriations committee chair Nita Lowey, a Democrat, Senate appropriations committee chair Richard Shelby, a Republican, and two other senior politicians will attend the meeting, according to a congressional aide.

media_cameraHouse Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N. Y., is trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown. Picture: AP Photo

Negotiations broke down during the weekend over funding for immigrant detention beds and physical barriers that would be funded along the US-Mexico border. The politicians hope to reach an agreement on Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the House and Senate and get signed by Republican President Donald Trump by Friday, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security and several other federal agencies expires.

Trump agreed on January 25 to end a 35-day partial US government shutdown without getting the $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) he had demanded from congress for a long- promised wall along the border with Mexico.

Democrats oppose a wall, calling it ineffective, expensive and immoral. Instead, a three-week spending deal was reached with congressional leaders to give politicians time to resolve their disagreements about how to address border security.

media_cameraHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., centre, accompanied by politicianss, signs a deal to reopen the government on in Washington. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It comes as Mr Trump incorporates his politically explosive push for walling off the Mexican border to the frontier city of El Paso on Monday, four days before a deadline for Congress to meet his demands.

The US president’s campaign-style rally in El Paso will give him the kind of populist platform he loves.

According to Mr Trump, illegal immigrants pose a national security risk to the United States and can only be stopped by dramatic extensions of current barriers.

It’s an argument he backs up with lurid warnings about rapists and people traffickers extending far into the American heartland — a message that critics describe as blatantly xenophobic and based on heavily manipulated data.

media_cameraDonald Trump is scheduled to visit the border city of El Paso as he continues to campaign for a wall to be built along the border. Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Mr Trump chose El Paso as a historic crossing point where, he says, walls have eradicated an out-of-control influx of criminals from Mexico and made the city a model for what could happen elsewhere on the border.

But there’ll be a counter-message a short distance from where Mr Trump speaks when rising Democratic star Beto O’Rourke — a possible challenger to Mr Trump in 2020 — holds his own rally.

A former congressman who excited grassroots Democrats last November with an against-the-odds near upset of Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Mr O’Rourke is from El Paso.

media_cameraFormer Democratic Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke gestures during a live interview with Oprah Winfrey on a Times Square stage at “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square,” Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in New York. O’Rourke dazzled Democrats in 2018 by nearly defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the country’s largest red state. O’Rourke says he’ll announce whether he’ll run for president “before the end of the month.” (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

And his message will provide a stark contrast to that of the president.

“While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, to spread lies and a false narrative about the US-Mexico border and to demand a 3200 kilometre wall along it at a time of record safety and security, El Paso will come together for a march and celebration that highlights the truth,” Mr O’Rourke’s office said.

media_cameraDonald Trump will hold his first campaign rally since November’s midterm elections in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. Picture: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Mr Trump has been leading chants of “build the wall” at rallies since his 2016 election campaign. But he has failed to persuade Congress to fund construction and the risk of being forced into a humiliating climbdown has put him in a tight corner.

In December, Mr Trump retaliated by refusing to fund swathes of the government, leading to a five week shutdown of some 800,000 federal jobs. Now, Congress has until Friday to come up with wall money or Mr Trump says he could impose another shutdown.

Negotiations are on a knife-edge, with both sides haggling over how much money and what it will be spent on.

Originally published as Talks break down as shutdown looms

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