U.S. HHS announces further $20 billion funding to healthcare providers

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced a fresh round of $20 billion funding for frontline healthcare providers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new allocation will take into account financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus, the agency said, adding that providers that have already received relief fund payments can also apply for more funds.

Providers who have recently begun practice and behavioral health providers grappling with a surge in mental health and substance abuse issues since the virus outbreak can also apply.

The move comes as prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders surged in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. government has announced billions of dollars in support for hospitals and medical providers to meet the increased expenses from rising COVID-19 cases and to cover lost revenues due to suspension of medical procedures and routine visits.

The HHS has already issued over $100 billion in relief funding to providers through prior distributions.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Exclusive: Germany, France want more funding, power for WHO as part of sweeping reforms

By Andreas Rinke and Stephanie Nebehay

BERLIN/GENEVA (Reuters) – Germany and France want to give more money and power to the World Health Organisation after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored long-standing financial and legal weaknesses at the U.N. agency, an internal document seen by Reuters shows.

The proposed reforms could already be discussed at the WHO in mid-September, three officials familiar with the talks told Reuters, in a fast timeline that would confirm the two European powers’ growing concerns about the organisation, which they also see as excessively subject to external influences.

In a joint paper circulated among diplomats involved in the reform talks, Berlin and Paris said the WHO’s mandate, which includes preventing outbreaks across the world and helping governments tackle them, was not backed up by sufficient financial resources and legal powers.

“Not only during the current pandemic, it has become clear that the WHO partly lacks the abilities to fulfill this mandate,” the document seen by Reuters said.

A Western diplomat in Geneva, referring to member states’ contributions based on their GDP, said: “The key point is the mismatch between WHO mandate and financing. It’s very much pro-WHO, it should have more money and (they are) asking for an increase in assessed contributions.”

France and Germany are seeking consensus “from Washington to Beijing” around the document, a source close to the talks said.

The move shows the two countries’ keen interest in an overhaul aimed at strengthening the WHO, despite talks on the matter with the United States collapsing earlier in August at G7 level over differing views about the reform.

France and Germany, whose health ministers pledged new funds after talks with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in June, have not hidden their criticism of the WHO.

But their approach is very different from that of the Trump administration which has cut funding, announced its withdrawal from next July, and accused Tedros of being a puppet of China.

The Franco-German reform plan is focused on strengthening the WHO, in part to empower it to be able to be more critical of member states if they do not honor global rules on transparency in reporting health and disease issues.

A German government official, asked to comment on the document, said: “Germany together with others wants a reform, talks are under way on different levels.”

The French health ministry was not available for comment.

A WHO spokeswoman was unable to provide any information.

UNDERFUNDED

The seven-page document lists 10 reforms aimed at boosting the WHO’s legal powers and funding.

“WHO’s overall budget with roughly $5 billion per biennium equals the funding of a larger sub-regional hospital,” the joint paper said, urging larger and more reliable funding.

Only a fifth of the agency’s budget comes from member states’ payments without strings attached. The remainder is raised through “short-term, unpredictable and largely highly specified voluntary contributions”, the document said, in an apparent reference to the role of individual philanthropic funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A stronger budget is needed in particular for handling emergencies, the document said, to avoid the WHO needing to raise funds in the midst of outbreaks, which could further reduce its independence.

WHO experts should be able to “independently investigate and assess (potential) outbreaks as early as possible”, the paper says. China has been accused in this pandemic and in past epidemics of being slow or reluctant to share data and to grant swift access to WHO teams.

The WHO should also be subject to a stronger oversight in emergencies to quickly assess its operations, the document said, proposing the creation of a group of national experts who could monitor crises.

To make sure that the proposed reforms have a proper follow-up, the document recommends the establishment of a panel of experts for this purpose, similar to the one that is currently assessing the handling of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Tangi Salaun in Paris and Kate Kelland in London; writing by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Nick Macfie)

Trump’s halt to WHO funding prompts condemnation as coronavirus cases near 2 million

By Jeff Mason and Paulina Duran

WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic prompted condemnation on Wednesday from world leaders as recorded global infections approached the 2 million mark.

Trump, who has reacted angrily to accusations his administration’s response to the worst epidemic in a century was haphazard and too slow, had become increasingly hostile towards the U.N. agency before announcing the halt on Tuesday.

The WHO, which is based in Geneva, had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred, Trump said.

He said WHO had failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province, where the virus was first identified in December, that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening.

“The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday.

A U.S. official told Reuters that Trump made the move despite pushback within his administration, especially from top health advisers. There was no immediate reaction from the WHO, which has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the pandemic.

The United States is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.

Some 1.99 million people globally have been infected and nearly 128,000 have died since the disease emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to reduce resources for the WHO.

“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he said in a statement.

China, which has won WHO praise for its actions to curb the virus’s spread, urged the United States on Wednesday to fulfil its obligations to the WHO.

“This decision weakens the WHO’s capability and harms international cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter: “Deeply regret U.S. decision to suspend funding to WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said apportioning blame did not help. “The virus knows no borders,” he said in a tweet.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the WHO was essential to tackling the pandemic.

“At a time like this when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that,” she said. “We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions.”

GRAPHIC: Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S. – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA/0100B5K8423/index.html

‘BLAME CHINA, NOT WHO’

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathised with Trump’s criticisms of the WHO, especially its “unfathomable” support of re-opening China’s “wet markets”, where freshly slaughtered, and live, animals are sold.

“But that said, the WHO also as an organisation does a lot of important work including here in our region in the Pacific and we work closely with them,” Morrison told an Australian radio station.

“We are not going to throw the baby out of with the bathwater here, but they are also not immune from criticism.”

John Sawers, the former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, said China concealed crucial information about the outbreak from the rest of the world and that it would be better to hold China responsible rather than the WHO.

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who headed the WHO from 1998 to 2003, said an attack on the organization was “the last thing we need right now” since it had the power and ability to oversee the outbreak.

In its latest Strategy Update, the WHO said countries that ease restrictions should wait at least two weeks to evaluate the impact before easing again.

It said that the world stands at a “pivotal juncture”.

More than 2,200 people died in the United States on Tuesday, a record toll according to a Reuters tally, even as it debated how to reopen its economy.

New York City, hardest hit by the outbreak, revised its death toll sharply up to more than 10,000, to include victims presumed to have died of the lung disease but never tested.

U.S. health advocacy group Protect Our Care said Trump’s WHO funding withdrawal was “a transparent attempt … to distract from his history downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis and his administration’s failure to prepare our nation”.

Global stocks fell as oil prices dropped and warnings of the worst global recession since the 1930s underscored the economic damage done by the pandemic. The International Energy Agency forecast a 29 million barrel per day dive in April oil demand to levels not seen in 25 years.

Denmark became the latest country to ease its coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, by reopening schools and day care centres. But concerns they might become breeding grounds for a second wave of cases convinced thousands of parents to keep their children at home.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in a separate browser for an interactive graphic to track the global spread)

(Reporting from Reuters bureaux across the world; Writing by Lincoln Feast and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher)

Senate weighs emergency coronavirus pandemic funds; Trump seeks $850 billion more

By David Shepardson and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday prepared to weigh a multibillion-dollar emergency spending bill passed by the House of Representatives offering economic relief from the coronavirus pandemic as the Trump administration pressed for $850 billion more.

The House of Representatives over the weekend passed a measure that would require sick leave for some workers and expand unemployment compensation among other steps, including nearly $1 billion in additional money to help feed children, homebound senior citizens and others.

Even before Congress passed its second measure in days, President Donald Trump’s administration wants massive additional spending to help blunt the impact of the fast-spreading disease, which has sunk global financial markets and caused sweeping disruptions to the U.S. economy.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin planned to discuss the $850 billion stimulus package the administration wants when meeting on Tuesday with Senate Republicans at the Capitol, said a U.S. government official said who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations.

The funding would include some aid for airlines along with a payroll tax cut among other provisions. U.S. airlines have sought at least $50 billion in grants and loans.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton, in a syndicated radio interview, said lawmakers could pass the House measure as-is and then take on another bill to include more economic stimulus actions desired by the administration.

The pandemic has already killed at least 83 people in the United States and prompted widespread closings of schools, restaurants and social gatherings of all kinds.

Early Saturday, Congress passed and Trump signed an $8.3 billion package to battle the coronavirus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate is “anxious” to pass the latest House-passed bill, an action that could happen later on Tuesday.

Republicans said the Senate would work to pass the third measure this week containing the much-larger stimulus because of uncertainty about the Senate schedule caused by the coronavirus outbreak. That would require the House to take up the legislation when it returns from recess next week.

But neither administration officials nor Senate leaders are sure that such a large bill could move that quickly through the Senate.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Susan Heavey, additional reporting by David Morgan and Jeff Mason; editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)

U.S. coronavirus death toll rises; New York, Los Angeles region confirm new cases

By Steve Gorman and Laila Kearney

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two more people have died of the new coronavirus in the United States, bringing the toll to 11 and new confirmed cases were reported on Wednesday around the two most populous cities: four near New York and six in Los Angeles.

The first California death from the virus was announced by health officials as an elderly adult with underlying health conditions. It was also the first coronavirus death in the United States outside of Washington state.

Placer County’s public health department said in a statement that the patient tested presumptively positive on Tuesday at a California lab and was likely exposed from Feb. 11-21 on a Princess cruise ship to Mexico from San Francisco.

“Preliminary understanding from the contact investigation is that this patient had minimal community exposure between returning from the cruise and arriving at the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 27,” the statement said.

The person was the second confirmed case of the respiratory disease called COVID-19 in Placer County in Northern California.

In the greater Seattle area, the total number of coronavirus cases climbed to 39 on Wednesday, including 10 deaths, up from 27 cases and nine deaths a day earlier, the Washington State Health Department announced.

The Seattle area has the largest concentration of coronavirus cases detected to date in the United States. Several cases were connected to a long-term care facility for the elderly in the Pacific Northwest state.

In New York state, three family members and a neighbor of an infected man have tested positive, bringing the total in the state to six, officials said. About 1,000 people in the New York City suburb of Westchester County where the family lives were under self-quarantine orders because of possible exposure to the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“We are, if anything, being overcautious.” Cuomo said.

Los Angeles officials announced six new confirmed travel-related cases in Los Angeles County, including three people who had been to Northern Italy, one of the areas hardest hit in the global outbreak.

Of the six, only one has been hospitalized. The other five are recovering in home isolation.

Los Angeles County declared a local emergency and a public health emergency intended to expand and hasten preparedness efforts.

EMERGENCY FUNDS

In Washington, D.C., U.S. lawmakers reached bipartisan agreement on an $8.3 billion emergency bill to help fund efforts to contain the virus, a congressional aide said. The bill was expected to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives later on Wednesday.

Once the full House approves the bill, the Senate is expected to act quickly so President Donald Trump can sign the measure into law, putting funds into the pipeline to fight the virus.

More than $3 billion would be devoted to research and development of coronavirus vaccines, test kits and therapeutics. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the fast-spreading illness.

In a bid to also help control the spread of the virus outside the United States, $1.25 billion would be set for international efforts, the aide said.

The administration is working to allow laboratories to develop their own coronavirus tests without seeking regulatory approval first, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

The latest data https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 129 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States, up from the previous 108. They were 80 reported by public health authorities in 13 states plus 49 among people repatriated from abroad, according to the CDC website.

Those figures do not necessarily reflect Wednesday’s updates from three states.

CLASSES CANCELED

On Tuesday, officials said a man in his 50s who lives in a New York City suburb and works at a Manhattan law firm tested positive for the virus, the second identified case in the state.

The four new cases include three family members of the man, who is hospitalized, and a neighbor. Health authorities said one of his children was a student at Yeshiva University, which canceled classes as a precautionary measure.

The hospitalized patient had not traveled to countries with large numbers of cases. The outbreak began in China in December and is now present in nearly 80 countries and territories, killing more than 3,000 people. The first New York case, reported last week, was in a woman who had returned from Iran, where at least 92 people have died.

Governor Cuomo said about 300 students from New York’s college systems, the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY), were being recalled from five hard-hit countries – China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea – and would be flown on a chartered plane and then be quarantined for 14 days.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Laila Kearney and Hilary Russ in New York, David Morgan and Richard Cowan in Washington; Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Trump administration weighs emergency funds to combat coronavirus

By Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering asking lawmakers for emergency funding to ramp up its response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, a White House spokesman and an administration source said on Monday, though they did not say how much money was needed.

“We need some funding here to make sure that we … protect all Americans, that we keep us safe,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News Channel.

Asked how much funding the administration may ask Congress to approve, Gidley later told reporters at the White House that there was no announcement yet on the amount.

Politico and the Washington Post, citing unnamed individuals familiar with the planning, had reported the administration may request $1 billion funding from the U.S. Congress. An administration official told Reuters the amount was still being finalized, and the request could go to lawmakers this week.

The official said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was seeking an amount that some within the administration viewed as out of proportion, given the limited number of U.S. cases and other HHS funding that has not yet been used.

The outbreak has spread beyond central China to South Korea, Iran and Italy, rattling global markets.

The United States has not seen the kind of community spread that has hit China, but health officials are preparing for such a possibility even as those Americans affected so far have been quarantined.

There have been 13 cases of people diagnosed with the virus in the United States and 21 cases among Americans repatriated on evacuation flights from the virus epicenter of Wuhan, China, as well as from a cruise ship in Japan, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Representatives for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the funding requests.

U.S. President Donald Trump has tapped Azar to lead a task force coordinating the response to the outbreak that the department has declared a public health emergency.

Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, have urged the administration to seek emergency funds after it notified Congress in recent weeks that it had already spent millions of dollars for its virus response, according to the Washington Post.

Trump has been at odds with his own White House advisers over China’s coronavirus response and has sought to downplay the impact of the virus, saying it could fade in April with warmer spring weather – something health experts said is unknown.

“We have aggressively worked to combat the spread of this virus, tried to prevent it as best we could from coming into this country,” Gidley told reporters.

The administration is also grappling with where to send Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the virus after backing off plans to quarantine them in a federal facility in Alabama.

In a statement on Monday, HHS cited a “rapidly evolving situation,” but said that the Alabama center was “not needed at this time” and that it was looking for alternatives.

“Any action that HHS takes, working with our federal, state and local partners, to address this public health emergency will be done in a way that protects both those infected with the virus and other citizens as well,” HHS said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Caroline Humer in New York, and Makini Brice, Doina Chiacu, Tim Ahmann and Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and David Gregorio)

Trump-backed ‘conscience’ rule for healthcare workers voided by U.S. judge

Trump-backed ‘conscience’ rule for healthcare workers voided by U.S. judge
By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Wednesday voided a White House-backed rule that would have made it easier for doctors and nurses to avoid performing abortions on religious or moral grounds.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said the so-called “conscience” rule was unconstitutionally coercive, by letting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) withhold billions of dollars of federal funding from healthcare providers unless they complied.

“Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” Engelmayer wrote in a 147-page decision.

The judge also said the rule conflicted with federal laws governing the obligations of employers to accommodate workers’ religious objections, and hospitals to provide emergency treatment to patients who could not afford it.

Engelmayer’s decision covered a lawsuit by New York state and 22 other states and municipalities, as well as two lawsuits by Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers.

HHS and the U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The rule was scheduled to take effect on Nov. 22.

U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has made expanding religious liberty a priority, and the conscience rule has drawn support from abortion opponents.

Neither the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James nor Planned Parenthood immediately responded to requests for comment.

The states and municipalities have said the rule could undermine their ability to provide effective healthcare, and upset their efforts to accommodate workers’ beliefs while ensuring that hospitals and other businesses treated patients effectively.

Opponents of the rule have also said it could deprive gay, transgender and other patients of needed healthcare because providers might be deemed less worthy of treatment.

HHS countered that the rule would help enforce “conscience protection” laws that have been on the books for decades.

Engelmayer said these provisions “recognize and protect undeniably important rights,” but the government’s rulemaking “was sufficiently shot through with glaring legal defects.”

The state and municipal plaintiffs are led by Democrats or often lean Democratic.

They also include New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.; the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin; and Cook County, Illinois.

The states’ case is New York et al v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-04676.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)

Mexico says presidential plane sale to help fund migration plan

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday the sale of the former presidential jet and other aircraft from the last government would help fund efforts to curb migration under a deal struck last week with Washington.

The agreement reached on Friday averted escalating import tariffs of 5% on Mexican goods, which U.S. President Donald Trump had vowed to impose unless Mexico did more to contain migration via Central America to the United States.

In return, Mexico has agreed to toughen up its migration controls, including deploying its National Guard security force to its southern border with Guatemala.

“About how much this plan is going to cost, let me say, we have the budget,” Lopez Obrador said at his regular daily news conference. “It would come out of what we’re going to receive from the sale of the luxurious presidential plane.”

Lopez Obrador said the price tag of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner used by his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto would start at $150 million, citing a United Nations evaluation. The plane has been on sale for several months.

As soon as he took office in December, the leftist announced plans to sell the plane, whose spacious interior includes a bedroom and is emblazoned with official government seals on the walls and flat-screen monitors.

The jet was acquired in late 2012 for $218 million. It is on sale along with 60 government planes and 70 helicopters.

Lopez Obrador has shunned the often luxurious trappings of Mexico’s wealthy elites, choosing to fly coach.

He has also rolled out a string of welfare programs for the poor and the elderly, cut salaries for top civil servants and says he is saving public money by eliminating corruption.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, editing by Hugh Bronstein and Susan Thomas)

U.S. states sue Trump administration in showdown over border wall funds

A view shows a new section of the border fence in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coalition of 16 U.S. states led by California sued President Donald Trump and top members of his administration on Monday to block his decision to declare a national emergency to obtain funds for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California came after Trump invoked emergency powers on Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise.

Trump’s order would allow him to spend on the wall money that Congress appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall this year..

“Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theater,” added Becerra, a Democrat.

The White House declined to comment on the filing.

In a budget deal passed by Congress to avert a second government shutdown, nearly $1.4 billion was allocated toward border fencing. Trump’s emergency order would give him an additional $6.7 billion beyond what lawmakers authorized.

Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s move on Friday, saying it violated the Constitution and would infringe on their property rights.

The legal challenges could slow Trump’s efforts to build the wall, which he says is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The lawsuits could end up at the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.

Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Michigan joined California in the lawsuit.

The states said Trump’s order would cause them to lose millions of dollars in federal funding for national guard units dealing with counter-drug activities and redirection of funds from authorized military construction projects would damage their economies.

In television interviews on Sunday and Monday, Becerra said the lawsuit would use Trump’s own words against him as evidence that there was no national emergency to declare.

Trump said on Friday he did not need to make the emergency declaration but wanted to speed the process of building the wall. That comment could undercut the government’s legal argument.

“By the president’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary,” the states said in the lawsuit. “The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Top U.S. lawmakers to resume border talks, avert shutdown

The personalized gavel of House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), serving as the Chairwoman of a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers from both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, is seen at the start of their first public negotiating session over the U.S. federal government shutdown and border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top four Democratic and Republican negotiators in the U.S. Congress on border security funding plan to meet on Monday in an attempt to reach a deal that would avert another partial government shutdown by a Friday deadline.

House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican, and two other senior lawmakers will attend the meeting, according to a congressional aide.

Negotiations broke down during the weekend over funding for immigrant detention beds and physical barriers that would be funded along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The lawmakers hope to reach an agreement on Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the House and Senate and get signed by Republican President Donald Trump by Friday, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security and several other federal agencies expires.

Trump agreed on Jan. 25 to end a 35-day partial U.S. government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a long-promised wall along the border with Mexico. Democrats oppose a wall, calling it ineffective, expensive and immoral.

Instead, a three-week spending deal was reached with congressional leaders to give lawmakers time to resolve their disagreements about how to address border security.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Will Dunham)