Congressional negotiators on Friday closed in on a bipartisan deal that would rebuff President Trump’s demands for more than $5 billion for his border wall, as lawmakers recovering from one government shutdown struggled to avoid another one.
The deal taking shape on Capitol Hill would offer Trump no more than $2 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, people involved said, with Democrats suggesting the figure would be even lower. Lawmakers hope to finalize it by Monday to allow time for it to pass Congress and reach Trump’s desk before a Feb. 15 deadline.
Lawmakers were discussing repairing existing border fencing and potentially adding to stretches of levee walls topped with metal bollards that already line portions of the southern border. The exact mix of new and improved barriers remained unclear but was certain to fall short of the 200-plus miles of steel walls Trump has demanded.
“I can tell you this just for sure: It’s not $5.7 billion for the wall. It’s not anywhere close,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), a member of the 17-member bipartisan committee working on the issue. “We want to add money for technology, ports and all of that, yes. There’s a lot of money. But is there money for $5.7 [billion] just for the wall? No. Not even close.”
The agreement, if finalized, would test Trump’s resolve on a central issue of his presidency — the wall — and his willingness to compromise after forcing the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown in a failed attempt to fund it. Whether he would go along with the deal remained unclear. The president faces pressure from GOP leaders to steer clear of another shutdown, but portions of his base demand that he hold firm on the wall. The president insists a wall is necessary to deter undocumented immigration.