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Trump on border deal: 'I can't say I'm thrilled'

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump showed his first cards Tuesday about a bipartisan border security deal that falls well short of his $5.7 billion funding demand for a U.S.-Mexico border barrier.

"I can't say I'm happy," Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. "I can't say I'm thrilled."

He indicated he plans to meet with senior lawmakers soon to discuss the compromise plan. He would need to sign it by 11:59 p.m. Friday to avoid another partial government shutdown, following one in December and January that lasted for 35 days and, his White House acknowledged, damaged the economy.

Sources familiar with the agreement said it would provide $1.375 billion for physical barriers at the southern border and would reduce the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds for undocumented immigrants apprehended in the country by 17.4 percent. The agreement does not include a cap on detention beds used for interior enforcement that Democrats proposed and led to a breakdown in the negotiations over the weekend.

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.

What's more, he has demanded $5.7 billion in barrier funds for weeks -- and Vice President Mike Pence offered Senate Democrats around $2.6 billion just before Christmas. Trump was pressured by conservative opinion-shapers to oppose a Senate-passed bill last year that called for $1.6 billion in border wall funding.

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That all means the president got a worse deal than he would have secured, had he ignored the conservative radio and television personalities in December.

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 tweet Tuesday to "take executive action" to fund a wall, perhaps by declaring a border emergency.


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