Mon | Mar 18, 2019

Unhappy with deal, Trump still doesn’t expect a new shutdown

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:22 AM
 US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP):

Under mounting pressure from his own party, President Donald Trump appears to be grudgingly leaning towards accepting an agreement that would head off a threatened second government shutdown but provide just a fraction of the money he’s been demanding for his Mexican border wall.

Trump said Tuesday he would need more time to study the plan, but he also declared he was not expecting another shutdown this weekend when funding for parts of the government would run out. He strongly signalled that he planned to scrounge up additional dollars for the wall by raiding other federal coffers to deliver on the signature promise of his presidential campaign.

“I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m thrilled,” Trump said of the proposed deal. “But the wall is getting built, regardless. It doesn’t matter, because we’re doing other things beyond what we’re talking about here.”

Trump sounded more conciliatory in a Tuesday night tweet, thanking “all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the Radical Left on Border Security”.

Accepting the deal, worked out by congressional negotiators from both parties, would be a disappointment for a president who has repeatedly insisted he needs $5.7 billion for a barrier along the US-Mexico border, saying the project is paramount for national security. Trump turned down a similar deal in December, forcing the 35-day partial shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay cheques and Republicans reeling. There is little appetite in Washington for a repeat.

Lawmakers tentatively agreed to a deal that would provide nearly $1.4 billion for border barriers and keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30. Filling in the details has taken some time, as is typical, and aides reported Wednesday that the measure had hit some snags, though they doubted they would prove fatal.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the bill writers were “still tinkering” with the legislation’s language.

Awaiting final package

“The president wants to see what the final package looks like and he’ll make a decision at that point,” she said.

The agreement would allow 55 miles (88 kilometres) of new fencing — constructed using existing designs such as metal slats— but far less than the 215 miles (345 kilometres) the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

Full details were not expected to be released until later Wednesday as lawmakers worked to translate their verbal agreement into legislation. But Republican leaders urged Trump to sign on.

“I hope he signs the bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who joined other GOP leaders in selling it as a necessary compromise that represented a major concession from Democrats.

Lawmakers need to pass some kind of funding bill to avoid another shutdown at midnight Friday and have worked to avoid turning to another short-term bill that would only prolong the border debate.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, Trump said of a possible shutdown: “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”