President Donald Trump has been working on a deal with Democrats to end the government shutdown while still mitigating the emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border — and it looks like there may be a solution in sight.
Trump announced on Friday that he would sign a bill that would end the shutdown by funding the government temporarily. If the bill passes the House and Senate and Trump indeed signs it, the government will open for three weeks, during which time lawmakers are expected to discuss border security and a more permanent solution.
But while Trump seemed to cave to the Democrats’ demand to open the government before negotiating for increased border security, the president dedicated a good portion of his Friday speech to stumping for his wall, and warned that the government would shut down again if the Democrats do not reach a deal with Republicans to give him funding by Feb. 15. He also threatened to declare a national emergency to build the wall if necessary.
Trump agrees to open government
The president said that he would bring up the proposed bill to Sen. Majority Mitch McConnell (R-SC) for an immediate vote so government workers can receive pay “as soon as possible.” The bill is expected to pass both chambers of Congress swiftly.
“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and re-open the federal government,” Trump said. His announcement marked a stunning reversal after he refused for weeks to accept any deal from the Democrats that did not fund his signature campaign promise.
But even as he capitulated to the Democrats, Trump emphasized the need for the wall and said that he expects Democrats and Republicans on a bipartisan committee to work together to secure funding for a barrier within the next three weeks, adding that he is hopeful Democrats and Republicans will work together in good faith and put country over party.
Trump maintained that “walls should not be controversial” and that “walls work.” He brought up the example of Israel’s border barrier as proof, saying it’s “just common sense.”
He also brought up the Democrats’ support of border fences in the past and riffed on familiar arguments, pointing to illegal immigrant crime, human trafficking, an drug trafficking as problems that can only be solved with a border barrier. He also called for more security at ports of entry to stop the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants, and he discussed the difficulty of handling the influx of migrants and “laughing stock” catch-and-release laws that have resulted in back-logged immigration courts and that endanger American communities.
Still, Trump appeared to concede to Democrats as he said that the wall he is seeking would be transparent and partially made of steel — not concrete — and partially a “smart wall,” a term used by Democrats to refer to border technology rather than a physical barrier. Trump said the solution would include drones and sensors, and that “we do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall” across the continent.
The president also noted that vulnerable, high-risk areas of border would be prioritized — but he was clear that he is indeed still seeking a physical barrier, and not just bells and whistles, saying: “No border security plan can never work without a physical barrier. It just doesn’t happen.”
The deal, which Trump announced in the White House Rose Garden, comes as pressure was mounting on Congress to end the shutdown, which has caused 800,000 government workers to miss two paychecks and caused delays at some airports and other government disruption. Watch the president’s full speech below:
Threatens national emergency
Democrats have demanded for weeks that Trump end the shutdown without wall funding, something that Republicans have warned would eliminate Trump’s leverage in the negotiation. As recently as Thursday, Trump said that Republicans were united and would not “cave” on the wall, but he appeared to yield as he signaled he would be willing to accept a “down payment.”
Nancy just said she “just doesn’t understand why?” Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn’t work. Our Country has a chance to greatly reduce Crime, Human Trafficking, Gangs and Drugs. Should have been done for decades. We will not Cave!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2019
By agreeing to a temporary deal to end the shutdown, Trump lost leverage in the negotiation but nevertheless kept a national emergency on the table. He said at the opening of his remarks that he considered the “very powerful alternative” of declaring a national emergency, though “hopefully, it will be unnecessary,” he said.
He initially threatened to declare a national emergency earlier this month before attempting, and failing, to get the Democrats to reach a deal with him.
The shutdown dragged on for over a month as the Democrats refused to compromise with Trump to solve the border crisis, which they called “manufactured.” Meanwhile, numerous attempts at negotiation failed to break the stalemate.
Democrats rejected a compromise deal that included protections for illegal immigrants for wall funding from Trump before he announced it last weekend, calling it a “non-starter.” Efforts at negotiation continued to falter this week as the deal was shot down in the Senate on Thursday along with a separate Democrat bill to open the government that received votes from six Republican defectors.
It was reported as late as Thursday that the White House was still considering a plan to invoke the National Emergency Act to begin construction of a border barrier. The plan would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to build barriers along the border with Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and California with $7 billion in funds from various federal departments.
Democrats have promised that they would challenge any attempt to build the wall without congressional approval, but Trump again threatened at the closing of his remarks that he would consider declaring a national emergency if the Democrats do not agree to a deal that includes wall funding at the end of three weeks.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”