Advertisement




Kay Granger and Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kay Granger, the lead Republican negotiator, discusses the proposed agreement to avert a new government shutdown as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy lends support. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Congressional negotiators finalized a massive funding package just before midnight Wednesday, confident they’ll have enough support to deliver it to President Trump’s desk in time to avert a shutdown.

The Senate plans to move quickly to approve the funding accord Thursday, sending it to the House, where it’s also expected to have large bipartisan backing. The bill will then be sent to Trump, where even top lawmakers are still holding their breath that he’ll sign it and avert a second shutdown.

Story Continued Below

The 1,100-page funding deal would fund one-quarter of the government, including the contentious homeland security budget. Notably, though, Republican and Democratic leaders failed to reach a deal to reauthorize a landmark set of protections for domestic violence survivors, the Violence Against Women Act.

That program is now set to expire Friday, though some lawmakers and aides say funding likely won’t be affected until March.

Party leaders also couldn’t agree on whether to include back pay for thousands of federal contractors who went unpaid during the 35-day shutdown.

With the legislation finally released, both Democrats and Republicans quickly began to sell the deal as a win for their own parties, after a months-long standoff over Trump’s border wall.

GOP lawmakers touted the deal’s $1.375 billion for border money, including 55 new miles of new fencing, which Senate Appropriations chief Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) called a “down payment’ on Trump’s wall.

Democrats, though, quickly countered that the fencing can’t be built in “sensitive” areas such as national parks and refuge areas. They also touted nearly $500 million in humanitarian assistance for migrants.

At least one Republican negotiator, Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) refused to sign the agreement, according to his office.

Trump has yet to publicly say whether he’d sign the bill, but hinted Wednesday that he is leaning in that direction, while also praising Republicans for their border security efforts.

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” Trump told reporters. “I think a lot of good points were made [in the last shutdown], but I don’t want to see another one. There’s no reason for it.”

House Democratic and GOP leaders on Wednesday each briefed their rank-and-file members on the contours of the package, which appears to have broad support despite some grumbling on the left and right.

“We should have a majority of the Republicans,” predicted Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “And it could be more.”

But, Flores cautioned, “it’s very conceptual” because “we don’t have anything to look at.”

Democrats offered a similar note.

“Based on the conversations that we had today, the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus will support this legislation that will be presented on the House floor tomorrow,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

Among progressive Democrats, there was some angst on Wednesday about providing $1.3 billion for border barriers. But none seemed keen on tanking the deal and forcing a shutdown for which Democrats could be blamed.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stood up in the closed-door meeting to raise her concerns about the border security deal, particularly the compromise struck on detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But the Washington Democrat was generally complimentary of her party’s efforts to strike a deal, and said while she might vote against it, the Progressive Caucus was not attempting to kill the deal.

Among House Democrats, the real question is how the big freshman class will vote, particularly the coalition of progressives that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other high-profile figures. They have demanded negotiators cut Homeland Security Department funding and nix spending for ICE all together.

“I honestly want to kind of reserve commenting about it until I’ve had an opportunity to talk with fellow members of the freshman class,” said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), the freshman leadership representative. “As you all know, we have an ideologically diverse freshman class.”

The most important question still centers on whether Trump will support the deal. Facing a barrage of questions from their conference, House GOP leaders said Trump has indicated that he would sign the package — giving cover to some Republicans skeptical of a deal that has been lambasted by conservative commentators.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday night that he‘d spoke with Trump and described the deal as a “down payment“ on the border wall.

“I just talked to the President, and he was in good spirits,“ Shelby wrote on Twitter. “This is only the beginning of a multi-year effort.“

House GOP leaders are not explicitly telling rank-and-file members to back the deal since they have yet to see bill’s language. But they are framing it as a choice between the status quo or the chance to build new fencing and make more progress toward securing the border.

In Wednesday’s closed-door GOP Conference meeting, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the lead negotiator for House Republicans, laid out specifics on the border agreement, including the amount of money Republicans say will go to the wall. There was little push-back during the meeting, according to aides and lawmakers who were present, though members did express frustration that they hadn’t seen bill text yet.

“I don’t see anything just yet that would cause me to vote against it. The alternative would be a [continuing resolution] or a shutdown,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said. “It’s better than nothing.”

The most important question still centers on whether Trump will support the deal. Facing a barrage of questions from their conference, House GOP leaders said Trump has indicated that he would sign the package — giving cover to some Republicans skeptical of a deal that has been lambasted by conservative commentators.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a key Trump ally in the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, cautiously predicted that Trump would sign the bill, then proceed with other avenues to obtain wall money.

“My guess is, he might [sign it], kind of reluctantly, and then say we’re going to go with the emergency declaration. But I still think we could get something better,” Jordan said.

The Freedom Caucus would rather pass a stopgap funding bill, which would keep Republican-negotiated spending levels from last year in place. The conservative group even introduced a one-week continuing resolution Wednesday afternoon.

But Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said conservatives won’t beat up Trump if he signs the border deal and takes executive action to free up more money for the wall.

“If the president were to sign this bill based on the contours of what has been reported and suggested is in the bill, and did nothing else, it would be political suicide,” Meadows told reporters. “If he signed the bill… and takes other methods to obtain funding for additional border security measures, then I think there’s very little political liability from conservatives.”

Burgess Everett, Andrew Desiderio,Heather Caygle and Caitlin Emma contributed to this report.

Read More

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here