Congressional negotiators announced a tentative agreement in
the talks to fund the government to prevent another shutdown last night. The
agreement reportedly reduces the amount of funding for President Trump’s pet
wall project, which leaves open the possibility that the president will refuse
to sign off on the agreement. Immigration hardliners have already begun to
attack the deal.
The agreement reportedly includes no money for a wall, but
$1.375 billion for enhancements such as steel slats for existing barriers and funding
for 55 miles of new barriers, per NBC
News. The new fencing would be subject to geographical restrictions on its
placement. Republicans would also get $1.7 billion for other border security
projects such as new technology for ports of entry, additional customs officers,
humanitarian aid, and funding for more than 40,000 new beds in immigrant
detention facilities. Democrats reportedly gave up their demand for a cap on
the number of beds that can be used for detaining illegal immigrants.
Sean Hannity immediately attacked the agreement, calling it
a “garbage compromise.”
“By the way, on this new so-called compromise,” Hannity
said. “I’m getting details. $1.3 billion? That’s not even a wall, a
barrier… We will get back into this tomorrow. Any Republican that supports this
garbage compromise, you will have to explain—look at this crowd, look at the
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the House
Freedom Caucus, tweeted that Congress had created “a bad deal on immigration.”
Few other prominent Republicans have spoken out publicly on
the deal so far.
Word of the deal came just as President Trump was about to
take the stage at a rally in El Paso. The president said that he was aware of the
deal but not the details.
“I could have stayed out there and listened or I could
have come out there to the people of El Paso in Texas. I chose you,” Trump
said. “Maybe progress has been made, maybe not.”
President Trump has not commented publicly on the deal, but
the $1.3 billion currently being offered by Democrats is less than the
$1.6 billion that was on the table in December prior to the shutdown. Just
over a year ago, in January 2018, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had offered $25
billion for the wall. That was before the blue wave in the midterm
elections gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives.
If the president sticks to his previous position, he may
well reject the current offer and force another government shutdown. It isn’t
clear how another shutdown would allow Republicans to increase funding for the
wall. Democrats held firm for 35 days beginning in December. President Trump
relented and reopened the government when his approval
began to fall precipitously in January.
Another possible option is for the president to accept the
deal and then proceed with his idea of using executive actions to fund the wall.
CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson tweeted this morning that the White House is seriously considering this strategy.
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Meet
the Press” Sunday that the president can shift money from various accounts
into a fund to pay for the wall. Moving money from these accounts would not
require congressional approval or a declaration of emergency, Mulvaney said.
“There are certain sums of money that are available to the
president, to any president,” Mulvaney said. “So, you comb through the law at
the president’s request … And there’s pots of money where presidents, all presidents,
have access to without a national emergency.”
If President Trump and Republicans reject the current
compromise deal, it isn’t clear what the path forward would be. Executive
actions to fund the wall, whether with or without an emergency declaration,
would almost certainly face legal challenges that could delay construction
until after President Trump’s term is over.
With Nancy Pelosi now in charge of the House of
Representatives and public
opinion divided on the wall, it is unlikely that Congress will be willing
to allocate more funds. If he truly wanted a wall, the president’s best opportunity
was last year, but that chance is gone forever. Republicans are now forced to
choose between a bad deal or no deal at all.