As things stand now, a House and Senate conference committee is the only hope that Democrats and Republicans can reach agreement on border security and avoid another government shutdown. The negotiations -- such as they are, for a committee that has met briefly only once in more than a week -- are ostensibly between Republicans and Democrats. But well-informed Republicans believe it is another set of talks -- internal talks among Democrats -- that will determine whether the committee succeeds and a shutdown is averted.
"This is not a negotiation between Republicans and Democrats," said one GOP lawmaker who is keeping close tabs on the process. "This is a negotiation between rank-and-file Democrats and Nancy Pelosi."
"That is unmistakably true," added a Republican who is taking part in the talks. "There are many reasonable voices within the Democratic conference who want to see a positive resolution here." Pelosi's "emboldened stance" -- her decision to refuse to consider any funds for a border barrier -- has been "very hurtful to the process," the lawmaker added.
Why are the intra-Democratic talks so critical? Because Republicans already agree on the key components of a border security package. They are united behind the need for a border barrier, and they are united behind the other provisions -- drug detection technology for ports of entry, more immigration judges, humanitarian aid for detained migrants -- that many members of both parties support as part of a comprehensive border security policy. Republicans are already there.