Republicans in Congress are urging President Donald Trump to back the bipartisan agreement on border security to avert another government shutdown, while looking for additional money within the budget to increase funding for his barrier at the border with Mexico.
“I think he’s got a pretty good deal here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama called the agreement reached Monday night a “down payment” on the border wall Trump wants and added, “We hope that the president will support it.”
They spoke shortly after the president expressed skepticism about the deal to reporters at the White House.
“I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick,” Trump said during a cabinet meeting. But he added, "I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown" and said he’ll consider the proposal.
The president also said he may decide to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get funds for a wall — an option opposed even by many Republicans, in part because it’s likely to be challenged in court.
If spending bills aren’t passed and signed into law by midnight Friday, nine government departments including the Treasury and Homeland Security would close again, just weeks after the five-week shutdown triggered when Trump refused to accept an earlier congressional spending deal.
The tentative pact reached Monday night provides $1.375 billion for 55 new miles of border fencing in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley area, according to congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. That’s far short of the $5.7 billion Trump wants for a wall. But the agreement also rejects limits Democrats sought on detentions of immigrants apprehended in the U.S.
McConnell and other Republicans said Trump may be able to reprogram other unused money to put toward his proposed wall.
“He ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border, so I would not be troubled by that,” said McConnell of Kentucky.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership, said he’s examining the federal budget for ways Trump could use available funds for a wall without using an emergency declaration.
“If we get to the place where it’s time to talk to the president about those I intend to,” Blunt said. As an example, he pointed to a drug program that has $800 million in unspent funds. Other funds might be shifted from existing programs, he said.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican, said she’s urging Trump to sign the agreement and not take budget funds for the barrier without approval from Congress.
“For him to reprogram billions of dollars without congressional approval would undermine the appropriations process and be of dubious constitutionality," Collins said.
McConnell said he recommended that Trump wait to ensure the legislation properly reflects the agreement before announcing whether he’ll sign it. Shelby said he expects the bills to be introduced Wednesday.
The president has a history of tearing up bipartisan agreements, including a potential one last year that would have provided $25 billion in wall money in exchange for protection from deportation for young undocumented immigrants.
The deal would allow a number of departments to continue operating, including Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency would also be funded.