By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the partial U.S. government shutdown neared the end of its 19th day, President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats were still divided over his demands for funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall, with a prompt resolution looking unlikely.
Trump walked out of negotiations with Democrats on Wednesday, according to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
The following are some possible scenarios for how the impasse might play out, with Trump's request for $5.7 billion (4.45 billion pounds) in taxpayer funds for his wall firmly opposed by congressional Democrats:
A COMPROMISE EMERGES
As ordinary Americans begin to feel the impact of the closure of about a quarter of the government, both sides could feel the heat from voters and move to do a deal, perhaps focussed on these factors.
* "Dreamers." These mostly young Latin Americans are living
in the United States after being brought into the country
illegally as children. Trump could offer to protect them from
deportation in return for wall money. A deal along those lines
was nearly achieved previously but collapsed.
* Barrier, not wall. Trump has insisted on funding for a
"wall," but lately has shifted to talking about steel fencing in the hope the term is less politically charged. Tall, slatted fences already are in place in some spots on the border and more are being built. Funding for more slats, or other alternatives to concrete, could let Trump declare victory and let Democrats say they blocked a wall.
* Other steps. There are many additional ways to fortify the
U.S.-Mexico border, such as deploying more all-terrain vehicles
and border guards on horses. Large metal detectors also could be
installed to scan trucks and buses for illegal activities.
* Follow the money. A dollar-figure bargain could be reached
somewhere between Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding and the Democrats' offer of $1.6 billion for border security.
TRUMP DECLARES 'NATIONAL EMERGENCY'
Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency,
saying that illegal immigration jeopardizes U.S. security and
empowers him to redirect existing federal funds to build his
wall, perhaps by tapping Defence Department accounts. Under
the Constitution, Congress holds the power to make decisions
about spending U.S. taxpayers' money.
Trump did not mention that option in a televised address on Tuesday about what he calls a border "crisis." Such a step by Trump would escalate what is now a policy dispute into a fight over presidential powers. Democrats would almost certainly move to block Trump, likely kicking off a protracted court battle.
DEMOCRATS FOLD, TRUMP WINS
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have vowed
they will not give Trump any money to build a wall. But as the
shutdown grinds on, they could have second thoughts, although
that seems unlikely given the political climate.
Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives by
a landslide in November's elections. Trump's approval rating
continues to hover at around 40 percent. There is plenty of
scepticism among voters about the need for a wall, polls show.
In addition, a growing proportion of Americans now blame Trump for the shutdown even as Republicans mostly are supportive, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
TRUMP BACKS DOWN, DEMOCRATS WIN
Trump, whose main responsibility as president is to make
sure the federal government carries out its duties, could
find the shutdown too politically hazardous.
Closed national parks and museums is one thing. But U.S. airport security workers and air traffic controllers working without pay have been warning that security and safety could be compromised if the government shutdown continues. Union officials said some TSA officers had already quit.
Trump has promised for years to build his wall - initially
saying Mexico would pay for it - and has repeatedly attacked
Democrats for standing in his way. But he may find the shutdown
unsustainable, fold and endorse Democrats' shutdown-ending bills
while finding a way to claim victory.
Democrats on Wednesday began advancing agency-by-agency
funding bills in the House that would then go to the Senate. Republicans there would then have to decide whether to approve the bills or block them in the name of Trump's wall project. Blocking a bill to fund the Treasury Department, for example, might delay Americans' tax refunds.
So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not indicated any interest in staging votes on those bills.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)