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Trump, Congress leaders set to huddle on border wall, government shutdown

Updated: 2019-01-04 11:03

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters about border security in the Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, January 3, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - As a partial US government shutdown hit the two-week mark, US President Donald Trump and congressional leaders were scheduled on Friday to discuss ways to break an impasse pitting his demand for building a border wall against Democrats' call for alternative security measures.

About 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the Dec 22 closure of about one-quarter of the federal government as Trump withheld his support for new funding until he secures $5 billion to start building the wall along the US-Mexico border that he promised during his campaign.

Such a wall, he has argued, is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs over the southwestern border. When he ran for president in 2016, he vowed Mexico would pay for the wall, which it has refused to do.

On Thursday, Trump tried to keep the pressure on Democrats, even as they gained significant new power with their takeover of the House of Representatives at the start of a new Congress.

"Build the Wall," the Republican president demanded on Twitter. In remarks to reporters that same day, Trump said: "You can call it a barrier. You can call it whatever you want. But essentially, we need protection in our country."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks after speaking about the ongoing partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 3, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

As Trump dug in, so did opposition Democrats, leaving many to wonder just how much progress might be made during Friday's White House meeting scheduled for 11:30 am (1630 GMT).

"We're not doing a wall," Democrat Nancy Pelosi said late on Thursday, several hours after she was sworn in as the new speaker of the House of Representatives.

"It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with a wall is an immorality between countries. It's an old way of thinking. It isn't cost effective," Pelosi added.

Late on Thursday, the House passed two Democratic bills to immediately reopen government agencies for varying lengths of time, despite a White House veto threat. Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, labeled the House effort "political theater, not productive lawmaking," even though the Senate last month approved identical legislation.

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