US congressional leaders nearing $2bn border wall deal: Report
Democratic and Republican leaders in US Congress are reportedly approaching a deal that would prevent another shutdown by giving President Donald Trump some of the money he has requested to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Republicans hope that the deal would offer about $2 billion, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing two people familiar with the talks.
Democratic sources, however, told the Post that even that is too much.
“We will not agree to $2 billion in funding for barriers,” said Evan Hollander, spokesman for House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey who is leading the talks.
According to the report, the bipartisan deal would ultimately give Trump some of the money he had asked for the controversial barrier in order to avoid yet another federal government shutdown.
Trump closed down the government on December 22 after Democrats refused to include $5.7 billion he had requested for the project in the 2019 budget.
The standoff lasted for 35 days and cost the US economy around $11 billion before the two sides agreed in late January to temporarily the shutdown for three weeks as negotiations continued.
Trump has made it clear that he would shut down federal agencies again if Democrats refuse to give him the money.
With less than a week left until the February 15 deadline, however, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that border security funding would remain $1.6 billion for fencing and repairs.
Representative Henry Cuellar, a member of the 17-member bipartisan committee working on the deal, said the Democrats might just authorize more funding for improving existing barriers and upgrading cameras and other border security technologies.
“I can tell you this just for sure: It’s not $5.7 billion for the wall. It’s not anywhere close,” the lawmaker said. “We want to add money for technology, ports and all of that, yes. There’s a lot of money. But is there money for $5.7 [billion] just for the wall? No. Not even close.”
Trump made the wall a central theme of his campaign and even said Mexico would pay for it. This means without the wall he would have a hard time appealing to his base in 2020.
On the other hand, Democrats newly in control of the House are determined to deny the Republican head of state a victory.
This leaves Trump with no other option that invoking his emergency powers in order to build the wall by deferring money from military projects.
During his State of the Union (SOTU) speech on Tuesday, Trump once again pledged to build a wall along the US border with Mexico to prevent immigrants, whom he called “criminals,” from crossing into the US.
“Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business.”
“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built,” Trump said.