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Congress leaders seek to finalize $1.3 trillion spending bill

From Reuters - March 20, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers sought to reach agreement on Tuesday on a massive government spending bill that Congress hopes to pass by Friday, with immigration issues such as President Donald Trumps border wall a stumbling block in the negotiations.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said he expected lawmakers to finish writing the $1.3 trillion bill later on Tuesday but that they were still finalizing some provisions.

Lawmakers and congressional aides were skeptical that Senate and House of Representatives leaders would succeed in including protections for young undocumented immigrants, who are known as Dreamers, in the spending bill.

Congress must pass the spending bill before midnight on Friday to prevent federal agencies from shutting down when their funding runs out. But thorny issues linger, including whether to include more money for the border wall, and a rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey.

Republicans want $1.6 billion to begin construction on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump campaigned on in 2016. Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have questioned the wisdom of the edifice and instead want to use a mix of high-tech devices and fencing to discourage illegal entries into the United States.

But in recent days, congressional leaders and the White House have engaged in negotiations, which appear to have failed, that could have given Trump the full $25 billion to build the wall. In return, Democrats could have won permanent protections for the Dreamers, who were brought illegally into the United States by their parents.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the talks broke down on Sunday after the White House insisted on the $25 billion but would only give the Dreamer youths 2-1/2 years

of protections from deportation.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with Democratic senators, while several Republicans planned to attend a meeting at the White House, to discuss issues around immigration.

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