A deal to avert another government shutdown appears close, but will Trump sign it?
A small bipartisan group of lawmakers plans to work through the weekend to craft a government spending deal in hopes of averting another partial shutdown by Friday — but it’s far from certain President Trump would sign the deal.
The group of Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate hopes to sign off on an agreement — expected to provide money for “physical barriers” along the border but not a wall as Trump has envisioned — by Monday.
That would give the full Congress time to pass the legislation by the Feb. 15 deadline.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, but we’ll find out over the weekend,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the members of the committee tasked with putting together a deal. “It’s getting closer.”
Some of the negotiators, including Cuellar, are heading to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., at the White House’s invitation this weekend to continue the talks.
Both Republican and Democratic members of the group say they’re close to an agreement. And across Capitol Hill, lawmakers expressed deep skepticism about going through another government shutdown just weeks after the last one ended.
“In this situation, there is no appetite on either side of the aisle and I think in either chamber for another partial government shutdown,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), another committee member, said Friday morning on “Fox and Friends.”
Lawmakers on Friday refused to release many details of the plan coming together, cautioning that negotiators are working well together and they don’t want to spoil the good faith.
The deal is all but certain to include physical barriers, funding for additional border security measures and new language to address people seeking asylum.
“The president, Republicans, want some form of physical barriers. It’s just, what do we get in exchange for that?” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey), another committee member.
“How do we protect our borders and yet do it in a way that respects our values as Americans; that we treat people humanely, particularly asylum seekers, people who are coming here?”
If the group can reach a deal, it would need to be approved by Congress and signed by the president.
Besides opposition from some conservatives pushing for more wall money, some liberals may not accept the final product. Some Democrats in the House have cautioned that they won’t approve more funding for Customs and Border Protection and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a progressive with perhaps the highest profile among freshmen in the House, voted against a measure to reopen the government last month because it funded ICE.
Any compromise would almost certainly fund those agencies. Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition to funding ICE in the earlier deal could prompt some progressives to think twice before throwing in their support.
In some ways, the political battle to come may be based on semantics over the definition of “wall.” A Republican’s wall may be seen as fencing by a Democrat.
Cuellar, whose district is along the border, is pushing for “levee walls.”
“You have dirt mounds. You put cement on one side, a low fence on top,” he said, “and voila you’ve got a barrier. People can call it border security. Some of us will call it flood control and it’s a win-win.”
Lawmakers say the White House has been involved in the committee talks and suggest they expect Trump will sign on to a deal if it is approved by Congress.
But just two months ago, the Senate approved a spending bill with the understanding Trump would sign it — only to be told hours later that he wouldn’t. Late last month, he said negotiators were “wasting their time” if they weren’t discussing the wall. That has some lawmakers only cautiously optimistic that Trump will sign on.
“At the end of the day, we want the president to be able to sign this,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). “So we will work together to make sure that whatever we bring out there, the president will be supporting it.”
White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Friday morning that “we’re on the verge of a government shutdown again because Democrats won’t come to the table and have a conversation about securing the country.”
But he later said that “hopefully we’ll come to a conclusion here pretty soon.”
The latest threat of a government shutdown came after a record-long 35-day partial shutdown that stemmed from Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the southern border. It ended Jan. 25 when Trump said he would agree to fund the government for three weeks to give congressional appropriators time to work out a solution.
Democrats have floated the idea of $1.3 billion or $1.6 billion in border security as part of an agreement, but it would specifically exclude a wall.
Trump has said that if Congress doesn’t provide money for the wall, he may declare a national emergency and divert funds from other places.
Times staff writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.
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