Ten­ta­tive deal set to avert shut­down

COM­PRO­MISE ON NUM­BER OF DE­TAINEES KEY $1.4 bil­lion for bor­der fences; Trump sup­port is un­cer­tain


Key law­mak­ers an­nounced a ten­ta­tive deal late Mon­day that would avert an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down at the end of the week while deny­ing Pres­i­dent Trump much of the money he’s sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

The agree­ment came to­gether dur­ing in­tense hours of closed­door ne­go­ti­a­tions at the Capi­tol, as law­mak­ers res­ur­rected talks that had fallen apart over the week­end in a dis­pute over new Demo­cratic de­mands to limit im­mi­grant de­ten­tion. Democrats ul­ti­mately dropped some of those de­mands, which had come un­der fire from Repub­li­cans, clear­ing the way for a deal.

Hur­dles re­mained, and Trump’s ul­ti­mate back­ing was in doubt af­ter quick op­po­si­tion emerged from con­ser­va­tives. But law­mak­ers on both sides said they were mo­ti­vated to find agree­ment by the loom­ing specter of an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down Fri­day night, three weeks af­ter the last one ended.

“What brought us back to­gether I thought, tonight, was we didn’t want that to hap­pen,” said Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the lead Repub­li­can in the talks.

House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who was in Mon­day’s meet­ings, said she hoped the ne­go­tia­tors would have a fin­ished prod­uct by Wed­nes­day. She said she ran the pro­posal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and she signed off on it.

“Some may be happy, some may not be happy,” said Lowey, as­sess­ing how Democrats would re­ceive the deal and say­ing she hoped the agree­ment would have the votes needed to pass the House. “We did the best we could.”

The deal in­cludes $1.375 bil­lion for 55 miles of fences along the bor­der, com­pared with $5.7 bil­lion Trump had sought for more than 200 miles of walls. The deal omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on im­mi­grants de­tained within the United States — as op­posed to at the bor­der. At the same time, it lim­its over­all lev­els of de­ten­tion beds main­tained by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency, al­though GOP aides said ICE would have enough money and flex­i­bil­ity to main­tain its cur­rent de­ten­tion lev­els and add more when needed.

To avert a shut­down, the deal needs to be writ­ten into fi­nal leg­is­la­tion, passed by both the House and Se­nate, and signed into law by the pres­i­dent.

White House of­fi­cials were re­view­ing the terms of the deal, and Shelby said he was hope­ful Trump would be sup­port­ive. But de­tails of the com­pro­mise dis­closed late Mon­day quickly came un­der fire from con­ser­va­tives, rais­ing the prospect of a back­lash from the right that could ul­ti­mately ren­der it un­ac­cept­able to Trump.

Fox News host Sean Han­nity, a Trump con­fi­dant, im­me­di­ately called the shut­down deal a “garbage com­pro­mise.”

Rep. Mark Mead­ows (R-N.C.), a leader of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus who talks reg­u­larly with Trump, said that it fails to ad­dress se­ri­ous threats.

“This does not rep­re­sent a frac­tion of what the pres­i­dent has promised the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Mead­ows said in a text mes­sage. “I don’t speak for the pres­i­dent but I can’t imag­ine he will be ap­plaud­ing some­thing so lack­ing.”

At a rally in El Paso on Mon­day night, Trump told a crowd of sup­port­ers that he was briefed on the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee’s progress as he was walk­ing on­stage. “Just so you know — we’re build­ing the wall any­way,” Trump de- to the au­di­ence.

The pres­i­dent has read­ied a plan to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency on the south­ern bor­der, which he be­lieves will al­low him to re­di­rect tax­payer money from other projects to build parts of a wall — with­out ap­proval from Con­gress. Democrats are all but cer­tain to mount a le­gal chal­lenge to this ap­proach, and many Repub­li­cans also op­pose it.

The pres­i­dent cast the Demo­cratic pro­posal on de­ten­tion beds as a dan­ger­ous idea.

“I will never sign a bill that forces the mass re­lease of vi­o­lent crim­i­nals into our coun­try,” said Trump. “And I will never abol­ish or in any way mis­treat our great he­roes from ICE and Bor­der Pa­trol and law en­force­ment.”

He added: “We need the wall and it has to be built, and we want to build it fast.”

And Trump de­fended the record-long 35-day gov­ern­ment shut­down that ended late last month — even though polling sug­gests vot­ers largely blamed him for the im­passe.

“If we didn’t do that shut­down, we would not have been able to show this coun­try, these politi­cians, the world, what the hell is hap­pen­ing with the bor­der. That was a very im­por­tant thing we did,” Trump said.

The re­ac­tion from his con­ser­va­tive al­lies left the ul­ti­mate out­come in doubt, but ne­go­tia­tors said that with the pres­i­dent’s as­sent, there would be time for the leg­is­la­tion to pass the House and Se­nate and be signed ahead of the Fri­day mid­night dead­line when large por­tions of the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, will run out of fund­ing and be­gin to shut down.

Ne­go­tia­tors said the deal would fund all gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions through the end of Septem­ber, po­ten­tially re­mov­ing any more shut­down threats for the re­main­der of the fis­cal year.

Shelby, Lowey, Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.) par­tic­i­pated in the Mon­day meet­ings. They are the top law­mak­ers on a bi­par­ti­san con­fer­ence com­mit­tee charged with strik­ing a deal and staving off an­other shut­down.

Asked why she thought the dis­pute over the de­ten­tion beds flared up over the week­end, Lowey paused be­fore say­ing, “You’ll have to ask those who were de­bat­ing it and ar­gu­ing it. It’s one part of the bill. And the is­sue, in some com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try, has re­ally be­come very vo­latile and per­sonal to many of the mem­bers.”

The White House and con­gres­sional lead­ers have strug­gled for months to reach an agree­ment on a gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill be­cause of ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans over im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. Trump called for us­ing $5.7 bil­lion in tax­payer money to con­struct more than 200 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. Democrats ob­jected to this, and Trump forced a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down that be­gan Dec. 22 to try to ex­ert pres­sure on Con­gress to act. The shut­down dragged on for 35 days.

The White House and Repub­li­cans even­tu­ally backed down and agreed last month to a short-term spend­ing bill for a num­ber of agen­cies that was meant to give con­gres­sional ne­go­tia­tors more time to reach a longer-term deal.

Those ne­go­tia­tors had made steady progress but ran into trou­clared ble over the week­end. The White House had largely sig­naled to Repub­li­cans that it would soften its de­mand for wall money, con­vinced it could use other le­gal ma­neu­vers to re­di­rect ex­ist­ing funds. In­stead, dis­cus­sions bogged down over dis­agree­ments about how many un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants could be de­tained at once. Repub­li­cans wanted flex­i­bil­ity in de­ten­tion rules, ar­gu­ing they needed to be able to ad­just to ac­count for vi­o­lent crim­i­nals and oth­ers. Democrats coun­tered that the changes Repub­li­cans sought would give the White House al­most lim­it­less pow­ers to de­tain as many peo­ple as it wanted.

The un­ex­pected dis­pute im­per­iled talks, spook­ing ne­go­tia­tors as they wor­ried they were run­ning out of time. Democrats sig­naled ear­lier Mon­day that they were more in­ter­ested in cut­ting a deal than dig­ging in as the Fri­day dead­line neared, and they largely backed down by late Mon­day.

The dis­cus­sions are the first ma­jor po­lit­i­cal test for Democrats and Repub­li­cans af­ter the last gov­ern­ment shut­down froze the pay­checks of 800,000 fed­eral work­ers.

A par­tial shut­down could have a broad im­pact on the coun­try. Fund­ing lapses would go be­yond DHS to hit a num­ber of other fed­eral de­part­ments, in­clud­ing the Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, Trea­sury, Agri­cul­ture and In­te­rior de­part­ments, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, and the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice.


Richard C. Shelby, left, Nita M. Lowey and Pa­trick J. Leahy were key ne­go­tia­tors on the agree­ment.

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