President Donald Trump appears to be taking a more positive view of Capitol Hill talks on border security, according to negotiators who struck a distinctly optimistic tone after a White House meeting with Republicans on the broad parameters of a potential bipartisan agreement.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama said Thursday’s session in the Oval Office was “the most positive meeting I’ve had in a long time” and that the president was “very reasonable.”
Trump had previously said he doesn’t expect the talks to produce much, and he’s threatened to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But Shelby said Trump during their meeting “urged me to get to yes” on an agreement. The meeting included no Democrats.
Publicly on Thursday Trump took a wait-and-see approach.
“I certainly hear that they are working on something and both sides are moving along,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. We need border security. We have to have it, it’s not an option. Let’s see what happens.”
Both Democratic and GOP negotiators said a deal could come as early as this weekend to make a Feb. 15 government shutdown deadline. Beyond the border security negotiations, the measure is likely to contain seven appropriations bills funding domestic agencies and the foreign aid budget, as well as disaster aid for victims of last year’s hurricanes and western wildfires.
“I’m hopeful,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I do like the idea of getting all of last year’s work finished and I hope that’s where it ends up.”
At a White House event with law enforcement officers on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence hinted that the option of declaring a national emergency and shifting billions of dollars from previously approved funding is very much alive.
“Let me assure you: We will not rest or relent until we have the technology, the personnel and the barriers required to secure our southern border. We will build that wall one way or another,” Pence said.
It’s clear that Trump won’t get anything close to the $5.7 billion he’s demanded for wall construction, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will have to depart from her view that there shouldn’t be any wall funding at all.
Last year, a bipartisan Senate panel approved $1.6 billion for 65 miles of pedestrian fencing in Texas — in line with Trump’s official request — but newly empowered House Democrats were looking to restrict use of the money, and a key negotiator, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said those details haven’t been worked out.