With a little more than a week to avert another government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, the top Democrat and Republican working on the deal say they’re nearing an agreement but need more time.
Republican Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby discussed border security with Trump on Thursday, and Shelby said he thinks a deal can be reached by Monday after working through the weekend.
“The president urged me to get to yes,” Shelby said afterward. “He would like us to conclude our bill in a positive way for the American people.”
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, who with Shelby is leading the talks, said Thursday that negotiators are acting in “good faith” but may not be able to finish work by Friday as she’d hoped.
Even if lawmakers reach a bipartisan deal, the biggest question mark is Trump, who has continued to demand money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal rejected by Democrats. If Trump doesn’t agree to a deal reached by bipartisan negotiators, some GOP senators say they are unlikely to go along with it, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t ruled out bringing it to a vote.
Some Democrats have said they’re open to money for new border fencing, which may satisfy Trump’s demand. Details have yet to be resolved, and a deal could hinge on the type of fencing and how many miles would be funded.
Another negotiator, second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin, said disaster aid is also an important part of the discussions. Democrats are seeking money for hurricane-damaged areas including Puerto Rico and Florida.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a GOP negotiator on the panel, said lawmakers are making progress.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “We don’t have it nailed down for sure, but I think everyone is remaining pretty positive.”
She said she thinks negotiations over a border barrier are “down to how much and where.”
The discussions are focusing on increased funds for border barriers, technology and agents, lawmakers have said. While Trump is seeking $5.7 billion for a wall, lawmakers are discussing the use of existing styles of fencing, and Democrats are seeking money to upgrade ports of entry and to hire more immigration judges.
Asked on CNN if Republicans are demanding Trump’s $5.7 billion, Tennessee Republican Chuck Fleischmann, a member of the talks, said, “That’s a flexible situation.”
Trump has mused for weeks about invoking emergency authority to bypass Congress for funds to build the wall. Shelby said he doesn’t know if Trump would consider declaring an emergency even if the panel reaches an agreement. “We can’t stop anybody from doing it,” he said, while adding there is a “positive attitude from the president to work this out.”
Pelosi of California told reporters Thursday, “I’m just leaving the negotiating up to the negotiators. I’m not going to negotiate it in the press.”
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News on Wednesday that if Congress doesn’t agree to Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border “we’ll figure out a way to do it with executive authority.”
Mulvaney, in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, said officials are looking at multiple options and that the approach may be to “find the money that we can spend with the lowest threat of litigation and then move from that pot of money to the next pot that maybe brings a little bit more threat of litigation and then go through the budget like that.”