House and Senate negotiators late Monday struck a bipartisan deal “in principle” that would dodge a second partial government shutdown by providing President Trump $1.375 billion in funding for physical barriers along 55 miles of the Rio Grande Valley.
The accord, which must pass the House and Senate and receive the president’s signature, resolved a weekend impasse over illegal immigrant detentions.
By Monday night, both sides were claiming victory in the talks, although the exact details of the agreement weren't yet clear, and two of the major claims seemed to contradict each other.
For example, Democrats over the weekend were first trying to cap the number of illegal immigrant detentions but backed away from that demand. However, a top Democratic aide told the Washington Examiner that Democrats had secured a 17 percent reduction in detention beds needed to hold illegal immigrants, although it wasn't clear how that reduction was calculated.
“We reduce the number of ICE detention beds by 17.4 percent, putting a critical check on the Trump administration’s mass deportation policy that is tearing communities apart,” the aide said.
On the other side, Republicans were claiming victory because the deal includes no statutory caps on the illegal immigrant detention population and secures “the funding and flexibility necessary to maintain its current detention population and respond to surges in apprehensions,” a senior Republican aide told the Washington Examiner.
This GOP aide added that the deal provides “enough flexibility” to raise the number of detention beds needed to hold illegal immigrants to 52,000.
The $1.375 billion in funding for a border barrier is far below President Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall, but the GOP aide said all of the money can be used for physical barriers and is double the miles of new fencing funding provided in 2018.
The aide said any currently deployed design can be used to construct a barrier, including the steel slat fence Trump has touted.
Democrats said the barrier funding achieves their goal, arguing it cannot be used for the type of big, concrete wall Trump long advocated on the campaign trail.
If approved, the deal would fund several departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for border security.
"We've had a good evening and we reached an agreement in principle between us on Homeland Security and the other six bills," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. "Our staffs are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together."
Shelby hinted Trump would sign the bill. He told reporters, “The White House has been consulted all along.”
The talks stalled Saturday when Democrats refused to drop their demand to cap illegal immigrant detentions. But they were revived on Monday.
Both parties are eager to avoid what would be a second government shutdown this year affecting the same agencies and departments that were partially closed for 35 days.
“When our negotiations stalled and we basically walked away, both sides, all of us realized we had a bigger obligation to get back together,” Shelby said. “I think the fact that there was going to be another government shutdown helped contribute to us getting together.”
A temporary funding bill runs out Friday. Both the House and Senate will have to approve the legislation and President Trump must sign it.
The two parties had reached an impasse over caps on detaining illegal immigrants. Neither Shelby nor Democratic negotiators would disclose how the stalemate was resolved.
The two sides appeared close to a deal over the weekend that would provide between $1.3 billion and $2 billion for fencing or other physical barriers along the southern border. Shelby would not disclose what final number negotiators settled on for barrier funding.