12:36 PM EST - February 7, 2019
The top Democrat and Republican working on a border-security deal said they’re nearing an accord but that negotiations may go into the weekend, with a week left to pass a spending bill to avert another government shutdown.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby went to the White House Thursday to discuss border security with President Donald Trump. The Republican senator said he updated the president on the negotiations of a House-Senate committee leading the talks, which he expects to wrap up over the weekend or by Monday.
“We had a good meeting. We talked seriously about where we are,” Shelby said afterward. “We’re closer than we ever were before.”
He said the president “encouraged us to continue to negotiate to seek a legislative solution.”
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, who with Shelby is leading the talks, said Thursday that negotiators are acting in “good faith” but may not be able to finish work by Friday as she’d hoped.
Even if lawmakers reach a bipartisan deal, the biggest question mark is Trump, who has continued to demand money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal rejected by Democrats. If Trump doesn’t agree to a deal reached by bipartisan negotiators, some GOP senators say they are unlikely to go along with it, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t ruled out bringing it to a vote.
Some Democrats have said they’re open to money for new border fencing, which may satisfy Trump’s demand. Details have yet to be resolved, and a deal could hinge on the type of fencing and how many miles would be funded.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a GOP negotiator on the panel, said lawmakers are making progress.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “We don’t have it nailed down for sure, but I think everyone is remaining pretty positive.”
She said she thinks negotiations over a border barrier are “down to how much and where.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said an agreement would need to be reached by Friday to ensure legislation is passed by Feb. 15, when stopgap government funding expires. But lawmakers said a shutdown could still be averted if it takes a few days longer to reach a deal. Congress and Trump agreed to the temporary spending measure after a 35-day partial government shutdown resulting from a partisan impasse over wall funding.
Pelosi of California told reporters Thursday, “I’m just leaving the negotiating up to the negotiators. I’m not going to negotiate it in the press.”
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Fox News on Wednesday that if Congress doesn’t agree to Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border “we’ll figure out a way to do it with executive authority.”
Mulvaney, in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, said officials are looking at multiple options and that the approach may be to “find the money that we can spend with the lowest threat of litigation and then move from that pot of money to the next pot that maybe brings a little bit more threat of litigation and then go through the budget like that.”