US President Donald Trump said today he's not happy with a bipartisan border deal in Congress that would avert another government shutdown set to start on Saturday NZT.
"I can't say I'm happy. I can't say I'm thrilled," Trump told reporters as he met with members of his Cabinet at the White House, a day after the deal was struck giving Trump a fraction of the money he's sought for his US-Mexico border wall.
At the same time, Trump said he did not think there would be another government shutdown. "If you did have it it's the Democrats fault," he added.
"I would hope that there won't be a shutdown," Trump said. "I am extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us."
Trump's comments cast doubt on the path forward for the compromise, which must pass the House and Senate and get signed into law. Unless Congress and Trump act on the legislation, or take some other action, large portions of the federal government will run out of money and begin to shut down, just three weeks after the last partial government shutdown ended.
The agreement includes:
- US$1.375 billion for 88km of new fences along the border, short of the US $5.7 billion Trump had sought for more than 320km of walls.
- It retreats from Democrats' demands for stringent new limits on the ability of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to detain undocumented immigrants.
- 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 sets funding for the average number of detention beds maintained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency at 45,274 beds, an increase from levels funded in the 2018 budget.
Lawmakers pulled the deal together during hours of arduous negotiations at the Capitol yesterday, after talks had collapsed over the weekend over the new Democratic demands over how many immigrants ICE can contain.
Lawmakers said they were motivated by the desire to avoid another government shutdown, after a 35-day funding lapse forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay until Trump reopened the government with a short-term spending bill that gave Congress three weeks to come up with a deal. That deadline arrives on Saturday.
The deal quickly came under attack from some conservatives who said it fails to fulfill Trump's promises.
Conservative media host Laura Ingraham attacked the deal in a Twitter post.
"No Republican should support this border deal charade," she wrote.
In past negotiations, a conservative backlash has forced Trump into retreat. But lawmakers of both parties are determined to avoid another shutdown, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R, welcomed the deal.
"I look forward to reviewing the full text as soon as possible and hope the Senate can act on this legislation in short order," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
Trump renewed his threat of declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and use the military to bild the wall, saying, "I'm considering everything".
During a television appearance, House Appropriations Chairman Nita Lowey, D, dismissed the criticism from conservative commentators and lawmakers.
"That probably confirms for me that it's a good deal," she said on CNN.
Asked if she had received any signals from the White House that Trump would accept the deal, Lowey said: "Look, I don't listen to signals from above. I listen to the words of my colleagues who are negotiating with me. . . . I am cautiously optimistic that those who don't want to shut the government down will endorse this bill."
Funding for detention beds had emerged as a flashpoint in the negotiations, since it has become a priority issue for both parties. Democrats aim to limit the Trump Administration's aggressive immigration enforcement activities, while Republicans are working to support or expand them.
The two parties offered different spin on the outcome, with Democrats claiming that, because ICE now regularly exceeds the bed funding limits, the deal will result in a decrease. Republicans say ICE will have the authorities needed to maintain and increase existing levels.
And even as conservative lawmakers and groups criticised the deal, immigrant advocacy groups also began to attack it.
Mary Small, policy director at Detention Watch Network, called the deal "an embarrassing defeat for Trump." But she also said the agreement "makes morally wrong and deeply harmful concessions."
"In particular, this deal actual increases funding available for immigration detention by about 5000 people per day, helping to grow the machinery of deportation and further heighten the risk faced by immigrant communities across the country," Small said.
At a rally in El Paso, Texas, yesterday 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 declared 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.