Congressional bargainers seem close to clinching a border security agreement that would avert a fresh government shutdown, with leaders of both parties voicing optimism and the top GOP negotiator saying he believes President Donald Trump would back the emerging accord.
It could take days to nail down final details and unexpected problems could develop, especially if President Donald Trump concludes there’s not enough money included to secure America’s southern border. Even so, participants said a handshake could come any day on a spending package for new walls along the Southwest border and other security measures that would end a confrontation that has dominated the opening weeks of divided government.
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“The president was urging me to try to conclude these negotiations and this is the most positive meeting I’ve had in a long time,” lead GOP bargainer Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters after discussing the parameters of the potential pact with Trump in the Oval Office.
“I gathered today that if we work this out in the context that we were talking today, that I thought was reasonable, very reasonable, that he would sign it,” added Shelby.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some good news in a short period of time,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Congress has until Feb. 15 to approve an agreement before the government runs out of money.
Trump faces an aggressive, Democratic-led House that is ramping up numerous investigations into his administration.
But ending the border security fight would close one chapter that’s bruised him, including his surrender after a 35-day partial federal shutdown that he started by unsuccessfully demanding taxpayer money to build the border wall.
“I certainly hear that they are working on something and both sides are moving along. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “We need border security. We have to have it, it’s not an option.”
A senior administration official said the White House is “cautiously optimistic” about getting a deal they could support.
The agreement seemed sure to produce less than the $5.7 billion Trump had originally demanded to build over 200 miles of the wall, a structure he made a paramount plank of his presidential campaign. It seemed likelier to provide closer to the $1.6 billion for fencing and new barriers first approved last year.
Even with a deal, it was possible Trump might try using claims of executive powers to reach for more wall funding, sparking more fights with Congress.
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Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said an accord could be “a good down payment” and added, “There are other ways to do it and I expect the president to go it alone in some fashion.” Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” on Wednesday, “If Congress won’t participate or won’t go along, we’ll figure out a way to do it with executive authority.”
Members of both parties have expressed opposition to Trump bypassing Congress by declaring a national emergency at the border, a move that would be certain to produce lawsuits that could block the money.
It was unclear what verbiage the evolving pact would use to describe the barriers, with Democrats vowing repeatedly to block funding for a “wall.” Also unresolved was Democrats’ demand to reduce the number of beds for detained migrants operated by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a negotiator, said both sides are showing flexibility.
“They are not opposed to barriers,” Blunt said about Democrats. “And the president, I think, has embraced the idea that there may actually be something better than a concrete wall would have been anyway.”
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No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana told reporters that “from the things that I’m hearing, this agreement could get a majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the House.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article