WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump slammed a tentative border security agreement reached by congressional negotiators looking to avert another government shutdown, but he did not say Tuesday whether he would sign the legislation if it reached his desk.
Though he expressed dissatisfaction with the deal reached Monday night by a bipartisan group of budget negotiators, Trump said he did not want to see a government shutdown.
“Am I happy at first glance? I just got to see it,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “The answer is no, I’m not. I’m not happy.”
But, he said, “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown. I wouldn’t want to go to it, no.”
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate could vote “in short order” on the tentative proposal and urged Trump to sign it.
Though the agreement doesn’t have everything Trump wants, “I think he’s got a pretty good deal here,” McConnell said. “I hope he’ll decide to sign it.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the agreement represents “a path forward for our country” and would help avoid “another round of fraught negotiations” as lawmakers rush to beat Friday’s fast-approaching deadline.
“Please, Mr. President,” Schumer said. “Sign it, and don’t cause a shutdown.”
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To avoid another government shutdown, Congress must pass the deal and Trump must sign it by midnight Friday, when funding will expire.
At the White House, Trump said he would be “adding things” to the agreement, but it wasn’t clear whether the bipartisan group of lawmakers that negotiated the deal would be willing to accept any changes.
The deal includes $1.375 billion for a structure along the southern border – much less than the $5.7 billion Trump demanded for the wall that he made a central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.
The agreement would fund 55 miles of barrier, significantly less than Trump’s most recent proposal that called for 234 miles of new physical barrier. It is not clear whether the funding in the agreement would cover the replacement of existing border fencing or just new fencing.
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Democrats sought to limit the number of detention slots, or “beds,” that ICE could have at its disposal to detain undocumented immigrants apprehended inside the country. Democrats had hoped to cap that number at 16,500. The White House rejected that proposal, and Trump repeatedly criticized it publicly.
Instead, Democrats agreed to no cap on detention slots for immigrants captured within the country. The deal would include enough money to cover 40,520 beds overall, a number that includes detentions for interior arrests as well as immigrants who are caught at the border. If Democrats had capped interior slots at 16,500, the overall number of beds available to ICE would have been about 35,000.
Both sides acknowledged that the agency has routinely exceeded limits imposed by Congress and probably would continue to do so.
The agreement is under fire from conservatives, who have urged Trump not to abandon his push for $5.7 billion for a border wall.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter blasted the tentative deal on Twitter, writing that Trump “talks a good game on the border wall but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it.”
Contributing: John Fritze and Alan Gomez
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