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Trump and Pelosi again butt heads but others see possible paths

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Mr Trump lashed out on Twitter a day after Ms Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, dismissed as a "non-starter" his offer to extend temporary protection to about a million immigrants in return for US$5.7 billion for the wall he wants on the Mexican border.

[WASHINGTON] US President Donald Trump bitterly attacked top Democrat Nancy Pelosi on Sunday and she again insisted that he end the government shutdown before border security talks can begin, but there were hints of possible movement in coming days.

Mr Trump lashed out on Twitter a day after Ms Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, dismissed as a "non-starter" his offer to extend temporary protection to about a million immigrants in return for US$5.7 billion for the wall he wants on the Mexican border.

"Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat," the president tweeted. "She is so petrified of the 'lefties' in her party that she has lost control."

"...And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!" he added, in a seemingly gratuitous aside. Ms Pelosi's congressional district overlaps with San Francisco.

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Pointedly ignoring his personal comments, Ms Pelosi on Twitter emphasised the need to end the partial government shutdown, which has inflicted increasing pain around the country as it entered its 30th day.

"800,000 Americans are going without pay," she tweeted. "Reopen the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border. #EndTheShutdown."

'GOOD-FAITH COMPROMISE'

While Ms Pelosi and other Democrats dismissed Mr Trump's offer, Republicans insisted that it represented actual movement by the president.

Vice-President Mike Pence, who has been leading the administration's contacts with Congress, said the Senate would put the proposal to a vote as early as Tuesday. He called it "a good-faith compromise."

The planned vote also reflects a shift by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. He insisted previously that he would not take up any shutdown bill unless both Mr Trump and Democratic leaders backed it.

"In a very real sense, what President Trump did here was he set the table for a deal," Mr Pence said on "Fox News Sunday."

The bill's fate was far from clear. Republicans hope to lure the votes of a few Democrats from Trump-friendly states to reach the 60 votes needed, but they may lose some hard-line conservatives in the process.

MOST BLAME REPUBLICANS 

The Trump administration - increasingly blamed by Americans for the shutdown - is trying to thread a needle between those hard-liners and Democrats who adamantly oppose spending the US$5.7 billion Trump wants for a wall. They have offered something over US$2 billion for a range of other border-security measures.

Democrats assailed Mr Trump's new offer as cynical, noting that it was the president who - by moving earlier to end the DACA programme protecting 700,000 young immigrants and to expel some 300,000 others in a separate programme - had placed in jeopardy many of those for whom he now offers temporary protection.

But anti-immigrant voices also attacked Mr Trump's offer as tantamount to amnesty for the undocumented - a toxic concept for many conservatives.

"No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA," Mr Trump said in another tweet. DACA was former president Barack Obama's programme to shield undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.

Mr Trump said that there would be "no big push" to remove the 11 million people in the country illegally, before warning: 'but be careful, Nancy!"

Still, both sides appeared to be casting about cautiously for a road ahead.

"The vote this week (in the Senate) is not to pass the bill," said Senator James Lankford, a Republican, "It's to open up and say, can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes? Let's find a way to get the government open."

Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, said that "I would not rule out a wall in certain circumstances."

He suggested that Democrats were amenable to negotiating if Mr Trump would stop demonising the party and its leaders and provide assurances that he would not suddenly shift positions.

"The notion that we have come from a (focus on a) wall to some other thing is moving it along," he told ABC's "This Week," "but we have to sit down and talk."

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who recently announced plans to seek the presidency in 2020, told CNN it was urgent that both sides "come together and have a real conversation and hash out the differences."

But Representative James Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, insisted that the government must first be reopened.

"I can't see us keeping federal employees, 800,000 people, out of work while we go back and forth on negotiations.

"These negotiations could take three or four weeks," he said on Fox.

AFP