Today on the Hill: DHS Conference Committee Begins While Deal Remains Elusive

House and Senate lawmakers began negotiations yesterday in hopes of striking a border security compromise, yet a bipartisan agreement remains elusive. In addition to the debate over President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall priority, lawmakers have been hamstrung over the possibility of adding deals on immigration policy and the debt limit to the underlying negotiations. If the negotiators fail to craft a product that can pass both chambers in that time and earn the president's signature, funding is likely to lapse again for the Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State and Interior, as well as the IRS, National Science Foundation, FDA and EPA.

Meanwhile, Democrats plan to unveil a border security proposal that would allocate new funding for: (1) 1,000 customs officers; (2) imaging technology for land ports; and (3) modernizing Border Patrol stations. However, President Trump downplayed the Democratic suggestions, reiterating that if the Conference Committee cannot come up with a border security plan that includes wall money in the next two weeks, he is prepared to either declare a national emergency — which would likely bypass the legislature and utilize military construction resources for wall construction — or shut down the government again.

On the floor, Senators will resume consideration of a Middle East policy package (S.1) that would impose new sanctions on Syria, increase military aid to Israel and Jordan, and make it easier for states and municipalities to approve laws targeting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. House lawmakers have finished their legislative business for the week, and will return to Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 5.