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OpinionEditorial

President Trump should take deal on border wall

He would be mistaken to declare a national emergency

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday. Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

The deal on border security reached by negotiators in Congress isn’t perfect. It isn’t real immigration reform. And it’s tentative; some details still must be ironed out before Friday’s deadline to avoid another harmful government shutdown. But the bipartisan lawmakers who crafted it are confident that a bill will pass in both the House and Senate. So the task soon before President Donald Trump is a simple one:

Sign the deal, and move on.

Neither side got all of what it wanted. But that’s the essence of compromise. This would be a good time for the president to show that he understands one of the fundamental elements of good governing. The damage done when he shuttered the federal government for 35 days should be a lesson learned.

The deal’s principal component — $1.375 billion for 55 new miles of bollard-style fencing in the Rio Grande Valley — is far less than the $5.7 billion sought by Trump. It’s even less than the $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December that Trump rejected. Democrats made a concession, too, on their demand to cap the number of migrants who can be detained for any reason in the United States overall as a way to force the administration to target criminals, not families, but the deal included a reduction in the total number of detention beds.

The budget agreement has backing from both Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. That doesn’t happen every day. Trump should follow their lead and not that of the right-wing TV commentators whose verbal savagery led him to nix the December deal — to the detriment of 800,000 federal workers, untold numbers of federal contractors, his own party and the nation as a whole. As of now, Trump is indicating he will not issue a veto, which probably would be overridden, a sign of weakness in any presidency.

Trump should move on from the wall and resist the urge to declare a national emergency, to divert funds from emergency disaster aid or military spending. There is no crisis on the border, as was made clear Tuesday by officials in El Paso, Texas, before Trump held a rally there. An emergency declaration would be divisive even for Republicans, and likely to be contested in court. Congress appropriates money, not the president, and this deal clearly is the will of Congress. And when this episode ends, Congress also should consider legislation to prohibit future shutdowns. Lawmakers should have to negotiate solutions to thorny problems, not have an escape route built on the backs of federal workers.

Unfortunately, signing the deal is unlikely to change Trump’s increasingly unhinged rhetoric about the wall. In El Paso, he again spouted lies about immigrants and safety in that border city. At different times, he said the wall will be built, the wall is being built, and the wall already exists. What’s frightening is the willingness of some people to believe those lies or, more ominously, not care that he’s lying because they like the policy he’s trying to justify.

Trump must face reality. Most Americans don’t want the wall. Nor, now, does Congress. It’s time the man who fancies himself a dealmaker realizes that this is a deal he has to make.— The editorial board

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