Trump Says He Does Not Want a Government Shutdown as He Moves Toward Embracing Border Deal

Trump Says He Does Not Want a Government Shutdown as He Moves Toward Embracing Border Deal

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President Trump said he doesn’t want another government shutdown. He also hinted that he has “options that most people don’t understand” to build his border wall without congressional approval.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump declared on Wednesday that he does not want to see the government shut down at midnight Friday and hinted that he has “options that most people don’t understand” to build his border wall without congressional approval.

The remarks, which were made to reporters in the Oval Office as he met with the president of Colombia, inched him toward embracing a bipartisan border deal that fell far short of his demands. But without a shutdown as leverage, he appeared to have little choice but to sign it if it clears Congress.

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s comments came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her House Democratic troops to fall in line behind the border-security agreement, which deprived Mr. Trump of a win on his wall but gave more money for border fencing and detention beds than the left wing of her party wanted.

“As with all compromises, I say to people, support the bill for what is in it,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday. “Don’t judge it for what is not in it. We have other days to pass other legislation.”

Lawmakers and aides were rushing to resolve lingering issues in a broader spending bill before the Friday deadline to prevent another government shutdown, but Mr. Trump and key lawmakers indicated they would support a final agreement.

Mr. Trump said the White House has yet to see the legislative text of the deal, and when aides do, “we’ll be looking for land mines.”

The compromise measure, assembled by senior members of both parties on Monday night, includes just $ 1.375 billion for new fencing along the border with Mexico, far short of the $ 5.7 billion Mr. Trump sought for a steel or concrete wall — and less even than the deal that he rejected in December, which prompted the longest government shutdown in American history.

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The core of President Trump’s argument for the southern border wall has remained largely the same. But as the fight wears on, his justification has expanded and details like cost and construction materials have evolved.CreditCreditDaniel Ochoa De Olza/Associated Press

But the president got some cover from some of his Republican allies in the Senate and at least one of his hard-line immigration critics in the media, Laura Ingraham, who have claimed some measure of victory by recalling that Ms. Pelosi had said last month she would approve only one dollar for a wall on the southwestern border.

“Well, try $ 1.375 billion,” Ms. Ingraham crowed on Fox News Tuesday night. “She might not want to call it a wall, but that’s what it is. And that’s not all bad.”

Remaining issues in the spending package, which includes funding for the Department of Homeland Security and six unfinished spending bills, include restrictions on where new fencing can be built in the Rio Grande Valley and whether the legislation should include back pay for federal contractors affected by the shutdown, according to a congressional aide familiar with the negotiations. There is also debate over whether to include an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, which is set to expire on Friday.

The legislation is expected to be finalized Wednesday, with a House vote on Thursday night, followed by Senate passage.

Several Democrats indicated that they would support the legislation, even before the text was finished, in part because it would stave off another government shutdown and includes Democratic priorities in the other six bills. Other liberal lawmakers expressed concerns about the funding levels for detention beds and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which some had campaigned to abolish.

“I’m trying to maintain an open mind, but I need details,” said Representative Veronica Escobar, a freshman Democrat whose district includes most of El Paso, Texas.

“The barriers are going to be an issue,” she added, noting that she would prefer no funding for the Homeland Security Department until it is audited. “I want to know where and what they look like.”

At least one, Representative Juan Vargas, Democrat of California, said he would vote against the bill, but he was not actively seeking support from other members.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol today. “As with all compromises, I say to people, support the bill for what is in it,” Ms. Pelosi said Wednesday. “Don’t judge it for what is not in it.”CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

“I think most people just want to get this thing over with,” he said. “I’m not one of those people.”

For some Democrats, the biggest issue is detention slots under the control of the Trump administration. The agreement authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to fund about 40,000 beds for detainees, many of them in centers run by for-profit companies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement near the border in Texas, Arizona and California.

House Democratic aides described the language as a “glide path” from the current level of 49,000 detention beds back to Obama-era levels of 35,000 or fewer.

But a summary of the provisions drafted by Senate Republican staff members placed the average number of beds funded under the deal at a much higher number — 45,274, including 2,500 for families. And that could rise to as many as 58,500 beds, Republican aides asserted in internal communications, because federal cabinet departments have latitude in how they use funds.

Under the complex funding formula in the agreement, the Department of Homeland Security would have “reprogramming authority” to transfer as much as $ 750 million from other programs into detention.

Democrats have argued that with a new House majority, they can provide much harsher oversight than their Republican predecessors and push back on that maneuvering within the department and other federal agencies.

“We’re intent on making sure that this process reflects the congressional intent of where they should be on barriers, on beds, on all these issues that matter to us,” said Representative Pete Aguilar, Democrat of California and one of the 17 negotiators working on a border security agreement.

“We’re going to respect Article I of the Constitution here and do our job,” he added, referring to the article in the Constitution that gives Congress the power of the federal purse. “If they don’t, they can expect to be up here quite a bit.”

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