Sen. Rob Portman expressed hope Tuesday that he and a small group of senators can forge a compromise that would be acceptable to President Donald Trump and end the partial shutdown of the government that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed.
In a conference call with reporters, Portman, R-Ohio, said he and senators from both parties are trying to agree on a plan to provide billions of dollars for border security in return for permanent legal status for hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States as children by illegal immigrants.
Portman said that if lawmakers cannot devise a plan to re-open the government, they should remain in Washington next week rather than go on their scheduled recess.
Although both Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have engaged in a sharp exchange of words, Portman said “we are not that far apart.”
“Both sides need to take a step back and put out the actual facts of their proposals,” Portman said. “There is substantial opportunity to find middle ground.”
Portman said Pelosi “exaggerates” the scope of Trump’s call for more physical barriers along the Texas border. He said Trump “is talking about 234 miles of physical barriers” compared to the border’s total length of 2,000 miles.
Portman backs a measure that would provide the White House with $25 billion during the next five years for barriers, technology and drones at the border while stepping up “screening” at American ports.
In return, a compromise would hand Democrats one of their goals, which is legal status for those who qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Currently those DACA recipients – brought to the United States illegally when they were children – have to renew their status every two years.
Portman said such an agreement would allow DACA recipients to “continue to work, go to school and not worry about their status.”
It would not provide them with full citizenship.
On Tuesday, Trump hosted Republicans Brad Wenstrup of Cincinnati, Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River and seven other House Republicans for lunch at the White House where they discussed border security and the shutdown, which is now in its 25th day.
Wenstrup, said while a handful of House Democrats were invited to the 12:30 p.m. lunch, none showed up.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also attended, he said.
Wenstrup said when he was invited to the White House during the Obama administration for a meeting with the chief of staff, he went.
“It’s hard to make progress when you’re negotiating with yourself,” he said.
He said border security has been a crisis for years, and said the caravans and unaccompanied minors crossing the border have only made it more of a humanitarian crisis.
“They’re saying this president is not negotiating,” said Wenstrup. “That’s not true. He’s willing to negotiate.”
A spokeswoman for Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, said he does not discuss private meetings.