US congressional negotiators have reached a tentative deal to try to avert another partial government shutdown on Saturday, but congressional aides said it did not contain the US$5.7 billion President Donald Trump wants for a border wall, Reuters reports.
“We reached an agreement in principle” on funding border security programs through Sept. 30, Republican Senator Richard Shelby told reporters on Monday.
“Our staffs are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together,” Shelby said. Neither he nor three other senior lawmakers flanking him provided any details of the tentative pact.
But it was far from clear if the Republican president would embrace the agreement. His December demand for US$5.7 billion this year to help pay for a wall on the US-Mexico border – rejected by congressional Democrats – triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month without him getting wall funding.
A congressional aide, who asked not to be identified, said the outline of the deal included US$1.37 billion for erecting new fencing along the southern border. That is about the same amount Congress allocated last year and far below what Trump has demanded.
The aide said none of the money would be for a “wall”, which Trump has been touting since he launched his campaign for president in 2016. Democrats say the wall would be costly and ineffective.
Two other congressional sources said only currently deployed designs could be used for constructing 55 miles (90 km) of additional barriers. Those designs, which include “steel bollard” fencing, have been in use since before Trump became president.
Shortly after the deal was reached in the US Capitol, Trump held a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, to argue for the wall he says can protect Americans from violent criminals, drugs and a “tremendous onslaught” of migrant caravans.
Trump said he heard about progress in the talks just before he took the stage, but he too did not discuss details. “Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” he said. “Maybe progress has been made – maybe not.”
Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas considering a 2020 White House run, held a counter-rally just 200 yards away and accused Trump of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso.
But a vocal group of conservatives influential with Trump has urged him to remain steadfast in his demand for the border wall money. In comments about the tentative congressional deal reached on Monday, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity told his viewers: “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.”
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