Hill Leaders Await Trump Reaction to Spending Deal

‘We’re not sure yet’ without seeing the details, White House spokesman says

Reporters follow Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as he leaves the meeting with House and Senate appropriators in an effort to revive spending talks and avert a second shutdown on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials aren’t yet saying whether President Donald Trump will sign the emerging fiscal 2019 appropriations package agreed to “in principle” Monday night by top lawmakers from both chambers.

“We’re not sure yet,” White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News. “Until we actually see the language, it’s very hard for us to comment.” He raised concerns about provisions in the agreement that would reduce the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, saying Democrats wanted that included because of their alleged support of “open borders.”

A senior White House official added it was possible Trump could make some sort of announcement at the top of an 11:30 a.m. meeting with his Cabinet. 

The parameters of the agreement would reduce the number of bed spaces for ICE detainees to 40,520 by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, down from 49,057 currently, according to congressional aides. Trump wanted enough funds to house an average daily population of 52,000 in ICE facilities.

House Democrats pushed for a limit of 35,520 detainees by Sept. 30, and furthermore wanted a cap of 16,500 on detentions of immigrants apprehended inside U.S. borders for various offenses, either criminal charges or civil violations of immigration laws. But the interior enforcement cap was dropped, and negotiators agreed to provide authority to shift up to $750 million from other accounts if ICE is dealing with a “surge” of apprehensions, enabling them to detain up to 58,500, aides said.

Trump only got $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of barriers along the southwest border; that’s shy of the 1.6 billion for 65 miles that Senate appropriators approved on a bipartisan basis last June.

Conservative Republicans and talk-show hosts have already come out blasting. Trump ally and Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night called the bipartisan pact a “garbage compromise.”

“This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration. It kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted Monday night. Meadows called on Trump in a subsequent tweet Tuesday to “take executive action” to fund a wall, perhaps by declaring a border emergency.

Even Republican Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, a member of the conference committee negotiating the Homeland Security bill, tweeted that he wasn’t sure he’d sign the conference report, and that he hadn’t seen text yet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell embraced the deal struck by Appropriations Committee leaders Monday night on the floor Tuesday.

McConnell said the deal came together because Democrats dropped demands related to capping internal ICE detainees and their position of “not one dollar” for border barriers.

“Fortunately our Democratic colleagues did abandon those unreasonable positions and negotiations were able to move forward productively,” he said. “I look forward to reviewing this full text as soon as possible,” McConnell said, adding he hoped the Senate could act on the legislation “in short order.”

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said Monday night that legislative text may not be available until Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer joined with McConnell in praising the spending deal in opening remarks Tuesday.

“While the details are still being hammered out, the tentative agreement represents a path forward for our country, away from another round of fraught negotiations, up against a government funding cliff, away from a dreaded government shutdown,” he said. “I urge President Trump to sign this agreement. We must not have a rerun of what happened a few months back.”

In December, legislators thought Trump would sign a short-term stopgap funding measure, but he then changed his mind under pressure from right-wing GOP allies and refused to sign the measure, triggering the 35-day partial shutdown that ended Jan. 25.

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