US President Donald Trump expressed displeasure on Tuesday with a deal by congressional negotiators on border security spending that offered no funds for his promised US-Mexican border wall, but did not reject it outright and indicated he did not expect another government shutdown.
Trump said he has yet to decide whether to support the agreement that Democratic and Republican negotiators reached on Monday night on border security provisions and money to keep several government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security funded through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Temporary funding for about a quarter of the government is due to expire on Friday.
“I have to study it. I’m not happy about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House about the tentative funding deal, which would need to be passed by the Democratic-led House and Republican-controlled Senate and signed by him.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown,” Trump said, but he added, “If you did have it, it’s the Democrats’ fault.”
Although Democrats have vowed to oppose the wall, Monday night’s deal reportedly includes $1.37bn for “physical barriers”, according to a congressional source who spoke to The Hill news site.
Those barriers will reportedly stretch 55 miles (90km) of the southern border but only with currently used designs, such as “steel bollard“ fencing.
The split-the-differences compromise contains plenty to anger politicians on the right and left – too much border fencing than many Democrats would like and too little for conservative Republicans.
However, its authors praised it as a genuine compromise that would keep the government open and allow everyone to move on.
“With the government being shut down, the spectre of another shutdown this close, what brought us back together I thought tonight was we didn’t want that to happen” again, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
But a proposal to cap at 16,500 the number of immigrant detainees caught in areas away from the border – a limit Democrats say was aimed at preventing overreach by the agency – was dropped in the Monday round of talks, and the mood on the Capitol improved markedly.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we will get this through,” Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who chairs the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, told CNN.
“We cannot shut the government down.”
Asked if the Republican president had signaled support for the bipartisan deal, Lowey did not answer directly, but said it had the backing of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, who control the chamber.
A final agreement on the deal is expected by late on Wednesday. The funding legislation would need to be passed in the House and Senate and signed by Trump.
‘Building the wall anyway’
Trump last month agreed to end the shutdown without getting money for a wall, which is opposed by Democrats. The shutdown roiled financial markets and left hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors without pay.
Trump’s long-promised wall was a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. He had said it would be paid for by Mexico and not by US taxpayers.
Trump will have to decide whether to sign the measure into law given its backing from congressional Republicans, or side with conservative commentators who have the president’s ear such as Sean Hannity of Fox News, who late on Monday called it a “garbage compromise”.
Democrats oppose the wall but support border security efforts.
Trump has threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress does not give him money for the wall.
“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, shortly after the deal was reached. “Maybe progress has been made – maybe not.”
Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas considering a 2020 White House run, accused Trump at a counter-rally nearby of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso.
Without new funds, federal agencies would again have to suspend some activities this weekend, ranging from maintenance of national parks to the publishing of important economic data.