Trump says he’s not thrilled with GOP-backed border deal

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WASHINGTON | President Donald Trump said Tuesday he’s “unhappy” with a hard-won agreement to prevent a new government shutdown and finance construction of more barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but he didn’t say he wouldn’t sign the measure. GOP congressional leaders swung behind the proposed deal, selling it as a necessary compromise.

FILE- In this Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, file photo President Donald Trump arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Trump plans to sign an executive order directing federal agencies to prioritize research and development in artificial intelligence. The plan, called the American AI Initiative, comes after China and other countries have pledged big investments to advance and apply AI technology in fields ranging from warfighting to health care. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Trump said he doesn’t believe there will be a shutdown, which could have hit hundreds of thousands of federal workers again this weekend. “Everything” is on the table, he said at the White House, but “we certainly don’t want to see a shutdown.”

He said he needs to look further at the agreement, which would grant far less than the $5.7 billion he wants for a long wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m thrilled,” he said. But one way or another, he said, “the wall’s getting built.”

Top Republicans Mitch McConnell in the Senate and Kevin McCarthy in the House both claimed victory, crowing about Democratic concessions on new border barriers and a late-stage battle over the ability of federal authorities to arrest and detain immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

“You’ve got to remember where Nancy Pelosi was. She has said, ‘No money for a wall.’ That’s not the case,” McCarthy said on CNBC Tuesday morning. “The Democrats have now agreed to more than 55 miles of new barrier.”

However, negotiators said it’s pretty much the deal that Trump could have gotten in December. Aides revealed details under condition of anonymity because the agreement is tentative.

Republicans and the White House were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed Monday night to far less money for Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4 billion, according to congressional aides. The huge funding measure, which combines seven spending bills into one, runs through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

Details might not be released until Wednesday, but the pact came in time to alleviate any threat of a second partial government shutdown this weekend.

At the White House on Tuesday, spokesman Hogan Gidley was noncommittal: “We want to focus on what’s actually in the document. Until we see that, it’s going to be very difficult to have a conversation about what we will and won’t accept.

The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. It closely mirrors Trump’s original budget request from last winter.

The split-the-differences compromise contains plenty to anger lawmakers on the right and left — more border fencing than many Democrats would like and too little for conservative Republicans — but its authors praised it as a genuine compromise that would keep the government open and allow everyone to move on.

“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” again, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

“Our staffs are just working out the details,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

The pact also includes increases for new technologies such as advanced screening at border entry points, humanitarian aid sought by Democrats and additional customs officers.