With the clock ticking towards a possible second partial government shutdown at the end of the week, a tentative deal struck Monday night by Congressional negotiators earned a quick thumbs down from more influential conservative voices – inside and outside of the Congress – leading to questions on whether House-Senate talks had produced something that President Donald Trump would sign into law.
“While the President was giving a great speech in El Paso, Congress was putting together a bad deal on immigration,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
“This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration,” added Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the House Freedom Caucus.
From outside of Congress – in the arena of talk radio and Fox News – there was also a sense of rejection of the deal, which had yet to be detailed as the President boarded Air Force One just before midnight Eastern Time to fly back to Washington.
The limited details offered by top lawmakers indicated that the plan would fund $1.375 billion in border barriers and fencing – much less than the $5.7 billion requested by the President.
There would also reportedly be specific language preventing the money from being used for any new concrete ‘wall’ structure – though again – the fine print had not been released as of very late on Monday night.
It was almost one year ago that Democrats offered the President $25 billion in wall funding, in exchange for protections for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” under the DACA program; but under pressure from White House aides, the President rejected that.
During the summer, lawmakers had agreed to $1.6 billion in border security funding – but now this deal would seem to provide even less, indicating that the five week shutdown had the effect of taking away money from the President’s overall border security goal.
It was not immediately clear when the Congress would move on this plan. New rules instituted by Democrats in the 116th Congress require a 72 hour window from the time a bill is introduced until a vote – that would push any action on this package until Friday, just hours before a funding lapse which could trigger a second partial government shutdown.
At his campaign rally in El Paso, Texas on Monday night, the President defended that five week shutdown.
“It was a very important thing that we did,” Mr. Trump said. “If we didn’t do that shutdown we would not have been able to show this country, these politicians, the world, what the hell is happening with the border.”
“Just so you know – we’re building the wall, anyway,” the President said to cheers.
In his speech, the President said he didn’t know the details of the deal, but rejected the idea of holding back on the number of detention spots available to U.S. immigration authorities.
At the Capitol, lawmakers were still hoping that the President would get on board with the agreement.
“I’ve said all along that I thought we could get this done, and I remain cautiously optimistic,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), one of the Senate negotiators.
But there were indications that the White House was putting together plans to fund construction of the wall – either by using a national emergency, or by cobbling together unspent money for that purpose, even though it would run against Congressional intent.
“Walls save lives,” the President said.