WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is “not happy” with a new border security agreement reached by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Monday night to avert another government shutdown on Friday and raised the prospect of "adding things" to the deal.
“I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick.” Trump told reporters when asked about the deal at the White House as he gathered with his cabinet members for a meeting.
But Trump added, “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown.”
As negotiators hammered out details Tuesday on an agreement in principle to approve spending for Homeland Security’s border security and six other unfunded agencies, lawmakers looked warily to the White House to see if Trump would agree to the deal.
After being briefed on the agreement by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a top Republican negotiator, on Tuesday evening, Trump posted two tweets that did not explicitly say he would sign or reject the deal, though they appeared to put a positive spin on it.
“Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources ... Will be getting almost $23 BILLION for Border Security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak!" Trump tweeted.
Senate Republicans said they generally approved of the agreement and said they hoped Trump signs the bill once it is finally hammered out and put on paper, despite harsh criticism of the deal by conservative pundits who have outsized influence with Trump.
Senate Democrats urged Trump to sign the bill, which they said included provisions both sides like and dislike, the result of most bipartisan deals.
“I think he’s got a pretty good deal here,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after the weekly caucus lunches, stressing that Democrats had dropped their demands for a cap on detentions of immigrants who are in the country illegally caught away from the border.
“I told the president I thought that he, as well as all of us, ought to wait until we have actually read the final deal,” McConnell said. “If it is what we think it is, he ought to sign it.”
Democrats, however, made it clear that the president likely will have to settle for a worse deal than the one offered in December.
“We must not have a rerun of what happened a few months back, where legislators, Democrat and Republican, House and Senate, agreed and President Trump pulled the rug out from under the agreement and caused the shutdown,” Schumer said.
If Trump signs the deal, he will be getting less than he could have in previous deals that he rejected – and far less than the $5.7 billion for 215 miles of border wall that he demanded when he spurned a bipartisan Senate bill in December, launching a record 35-day shutdown.
The agreement in principle includes $1.375 billion for physical barriers, the same as last year, for about 55 miles of fences and barriers along the southern border. But that, too, is less than the $1.6 billion the Senate had agreed to for about 65 miles of pedestrian fencing – and that Trump rejected.
But the border security funds come with some restrictions, according to the source: no funding can be used for a concrete wall or other Trump Wall prototypes and only “existing technologies” for border barriers can be built, the same things built before Trump became president.
The negotiators reduced the number of immigration detainees to 40,520, down from the 49,000 detained on Feb. 10. But Democrats gave in on their proposed cap of 16,500 for the number of detainees caught away from the border and within the United States.
The agreement also includes a $1.7 billion increase in the overall Homeland Security appropriations bill for border security such as technology at ports of entry, hiring customs officers and humanitarian aid, the congressional source said.
Sean Hannity of Fox News blistered the deal as Trump spoke to an El Paso, Texas, audience Monday night: “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain — look at this crowd, look at the country.”
On Tuesday, Trump told reporters he will be “adding things,” to the agreement, but did not elaborate on what provisions he would tack on to the proposed deal.
The president insisted he would move ahead with building his long-promised border wall and did not rule out the possibility of declaring a national emergency to direct taxpayer funding to pay for the $5.7 billion project.