Congress Reaches Tentative Funding Deal to Prevent Shutdown

(CN) – Faced with the looming threat of another government shutdown, congressional negotiators said Monday night they had reached an “agreement in principal” to finance construction of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border for about $1.4 billion, far less than the $5.7 billion President Donald Trump wanted.

The agreement calls for the construction of 55 miles of fencing, such as metal slats rather than a wall, in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The funding agreement will last through Sept. 30. Republicans agreed to the lesser amount in an effort to avoid another damaging shutdown that was largely blamed on the president.

“With the government being shut down, the specter of another shutdown this close, what brought us back together I thought tonight was we didn’t want that to happen,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

The tentative agreement, which matches 2018’s funding for border fencing, also includes funding for humanitarian aid and $1.7 billion for advanced technologies for border security and the hiring of more customs officers. As part of the deal, geographic restrictions were placed on where the new fencing could be constructed.

Congressional negotiators met in a round of three meetings on Monday after a weekend that saw no progress. Shelby and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, met with Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Behind closed doors.

Democrats held out for decreased funding for ICE detention beds in an effort to limit the amount of detainees being held by the agency, from 49,000 currently held to 40,520. A separate Democratic proposal to cap the number of detainees caught away from the border to 16,500 was met with resistance by Republicans. Democrats dropped the demand, which led to the tentative agreement, according to congressional aides.

“A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee said in a prepared statement Sunday.

Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas Monday night where he spoke about border security and immigration issues. He addressed the crowd about the negotiations and their possible deal.

“They said that progress is being made with this committee,” Trump said. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that he thought the negotiations had been going poorly.

“The Border Committee Democrats are behaving, all of a sudden, irrationally. Not only are they unwilling to give dollars for the obviously needed Wall (they overrode recommendations of Border Patrol experts), but they don’t even want to take muderers [sic] into custody! What’s going on?”

It’s not certain if President Trump will sign off on the deal, but Shelby said he was hopeful.

“We believe from our dealings with them and the latitude they’ve given us, they will support it,” he said. “We certainly hope so.”

Congress has until midnight Friday to approve of a funding deal in order to prevent another partial government shutdown.

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