A second government shut down has been averted, at least for now. Congressional negotiators revealed that they have indeed reached “an agreement in principle” on border security funding that includes more than $1.3 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Democrats backpedaled on their demand to cap the number of undocumented immigrants that federal authorities could detain, which had been hanging up the talks, and in exchange, Republicans agreed to limit new border fencing to no more than 55 miles.
When asked if they had an agreement that President Trump would approve, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters: “We think so. We hope so.” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, declined to give details of the deal but said a final text could be released by Wednesday.
However, without “The Wall” whether the president signs off on the agreement remains to be seen.
The Deadline Approaches
The “agreement in principal” is only a first step. Now, Lawmakers have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 15, to get the agreement through both houses of Congress and signed by Trump, before several Cabinet-level departments shut down and hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, in what would be the second partial government shutdown this year.
Rather than “The Wall” that Trump campaigned so vigorously on, sources tell Fox News the $1.3 billion can be used only for new construction that would cover approximately 55 miles of border territory in the Rio Grande Valley. The White House had requested $5.7 billion for the border wall and the administration had dangled the possibility that Trump would declare a national emergency and divert money from the federal budget for wall construction, but that move almost certainly would be challenged in Congress as well as in the courts.
The talks almost came to halt over the weekend with Democrats pushing to reduce the number of detention beds to be used by ICE to detain illegals caught in areas away from the border, a practice they called “harsh.” The Left wanted a cap of 16,500 such beds, to stem what they called “ICE overreach,” but the proposal soon hit a “Republican wall,” of its own, and was dropped from the final agreement.
Senator Shelby told reporters that the bed issue had been worked out, but declined to give details. “We think it’s going to work,” he said. “We had some hard negotiations.”
Sources told Fox News the agreement would provide enough money for 42,774 adult and 2,500 child beds with the goal of reducing that number to approximately 40,250 by the end of September. However, the White House has the ability to shift some money in the bill without congressional approval, in order to provide more money for the wall or more detention beds. With that in mind, sources tell Fox News the total number of beds could go as high as 52,000, though there is no technical limit on the amount.
Now, Trump will have to decide to sign the agreement, or whether he wants to stand against both parties in Congress, and whether he wants to shut down the government over the wall again, or divert funding for it by declaring a national emergency.