Congressional negotiators announced an agreement late Monday to prevent another partial U.S. government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, overcoming a late-stage hang-up over immigration enforcement issues that had threatened to scuttle the talks.
Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed to far less money for U.S. President Donald Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion US wish list, settling for a figure of about $1.4 billion US, according to a senior congressional aide.
“We reached an agreement in principle,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby, a Republican, appearing with a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers who concurred.
“Our staffs are just working out the details,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, who is a Democrat.
Details won’t be officially released until Tuesday, but the pact came in time to alleviate any threat of a second partial government shutdown this weekend.
Shelby had earlier pulled the plug on the talks over Democratic demands to limit immigrant detentions by federal authorities, but Democrats yielded ground on that issue in a fresh round of talks on Monday.
Asked if Trump would back the deal, Shelby said, “We believe from our dealings with them and the latitude they’ve given us, they will support it. We certainly hope so.”
As the talks were going on in Washington, Trump headed to the Texas border Monday to argue his case that walls work, as Democrats spurn his demands for billions to build such a barrier.
Trump was bound for El Paso, aiming to reshape the debate around the wall following the damaging shutdown fight and with his signature 2016 campaign promise hanging in limbo.
In a case of pointed political counterprogramming, Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas now mulling a presidential run, planned a Monday evening El Paso march and rally against the wall with dozens of local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups.
The first duelling rallies of the 2020 election season were set to serve as a preview of a heated years-long fight over the direction of the country. And they made clear that Trump’s long-promised border wall is sure to play an outsized role in the presidential race, as both sides use it to try to rally their supporters and highlight their contrasting approaches.
Moments before leaving the White House, Trump made it clear that O’Rourke was on his mind.
“We have a line that’s very long already,” Trump said of his El Paso rally. “I understand our competitor has got a line, too, but a tiny little line.”
At the time, short lines had formed for both events.