WASHINGTON – As I reported last night a bipartisan committee of Congressional negotiators came to a tentative agreement to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. While the complete details of the agreement will be released later today – the major takeaway is that the funding for the barriers fall far short of what the White House wanted.
The bipartisan deal gives President Donald Trump about $1.4 billion for a comprehensive package of security measures along the Southern Border of the United States, which is far less than the $5.7 billion that the White House wanted.
“We reached an agreement in principle between us on all the homeland security and the other six bills,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the lead Republican negotiator. “The White House has been consulted all along,” Shelby added, noting that he’s been given “latitude” to negotiate on behalf of the administration.
As of now, the Democrats agreed to 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall. That much less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December.
“With the government being shut down, the specter of another shutdown this close, what brought us back together I thought tonight was we didn’t want that to happen” again, said Shelby, R-Ala.
So the Republicans got the $1.4 billion for border security and in exchange, Democrats agreed to drop their demand to restrict the number of people who can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a time. That was something that held the deal up from Sunday through most of Monday.
In the end, the two sides agreed to fund a total of 40,520 detention beds for ICE, which is about a 17 percent reduction from the present numbers.
Now the process begins of getting the proposal first through the House and the Senate before President Trump will have the final say on the border security deal. There is a sense of optimism on both sides that it will pass on Capitol Hill before the Friday midnight deadline when the funding agreed upon two weeks ago to pay about 25 percent of the United States government will expire.
Shelby and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said they had approval from congressional leaders, namely Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Shelby said he was also hopeful Trump would back the agreement but would not say directly if the president had promised to do so.
Monday night Shelby made it clear that he expected the White House to accept the deal. “The president told me, straight up, when I was with him… He told me more than once that if you can work out a legislative solution to this, do it. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Shelby, who met with Trump last week. “Considering everything, this would be a good deal.”