President Donald Trump said Tuesday he’s “not happy” with the agreement reached by congressional appropriators on border security, but predicts there won’t be another partial federal government shutdown.
“Am I happy, at first glance? I just got to see it. The answer is, no, I’m not,” Trump said at the start of a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
The president said the agreement reached by a bipartisan team of House and Senate appropriations committee members represents progress to put $1.37 billion toward construction of 55 miles of a physical barrier along the southern border.
That’s far short of Trump’s requested $5.7 billion to build more than 200 miles of fencing.
“I’m not happy, but am I happy with where we’re going? I’m thrilled, because we’re supplementing things and moving things around, and we’re doing things that are fantastic, taking from far less important areas, and the bottom line is, we’re building a lot of wall,” Trump said.
He said he would like to negotiate further, but does not expect another federal government shutdown, after the 35-day partial shutdown of 25 percent of the federal government, which ended Jan. 25.
The president said that shutdown was his responsibility, but said another, if it happened, would be the fault of congressional Democrats.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown. I wouldn’t want to see a shutdown,” Trump said. “If you did have it, it’s the Democrats’ fault, and I accepted the first one, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, because people learned during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border. I accept it.
“I’ve always accepted it, but this one, I would never accept it if it happens, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. But this would be totally on the Democrats,” he said.
The bipartisan select committee was co-chaired by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
Shelby told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol that the $1.37 billion would be a “down payment” on the border wall.
“We believe that the caucus will support this,” he said of members of his party. “I believe that the House will support this. I hope the president will support it.”
The “agreement in principle” would fund a physical barrier with steel slats, but prohibit a concrete wall. It doesn’t include the Democrats’ demand for caps on the detention of illegal immigrants. It also increases Department of Homeland Security funding by $1.7 billion.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a member of the select committee, was hopeful for the deal’s prospects in a tweet late Monday.
“I’ve said all along that I thought we could get this done, and I remain cautiously optimistic,” she wrote. “Looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to finalize an agreement that keeps the government open and secures our borders.”
However, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., also a member of the select committee, was more skeptical, tweeting: “I haven’t signed off on the reported ‘deal,’ nor have I seen it. Based on the reports, I have concerns. Lots of questions too.”
Meanwhile, there’s criticism from both the left and the right.
Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questioned the need for increased homeland security funding in a tweet, particularly with regard to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.
“Why is it so controversial to say that when children die in an agency’s care and there’s no accountability, they shouldn’t have their budget expanded?” she said in the tweet. “People need to wake up. Trump’s not building a wall. He’s building detention camps for kids. And we’re falling for it.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, tweeted that “Congress is not doing its job.”
“This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration,” Meadows wrote. “It kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs.”