US Congress Expected to Vote on Border Security Bill
U.S. lawmakers are expected to vote Thursday on a funding deal to avert another government shutdown, while providing money for barrier construction and other security measures at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Members of Congress and their staff worked late Wednesday to finalize the legislation that came from a bipartisan committee tasked with finding a border security agreement.
That committee was the compromise solution to end a record 35-day partial shutdown last month as Republicans and Democrats stood divided on President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for work on a southern border wall.
The new funding bill does not fulfill Trump’s request, instead providing $1.37 billion for barriers along about 90 kilometers of the border. It also includes technology upgrades for screening at border entry points, more customs officers and humanitarian aid.
‘Product of compromise’
“As with all bipartisan agreements, it’s a product of compromise,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Each side gave a little, each side got a little.”
Congress must pass and Trump must sign the bill before midnight Friday or funding runs out for about one-quarter of the U.S. government. Ahead of the last shutdown, Trump was expected to sign a short-term funding measure to keep the government open while border security negotiations continued, but he changed his mind.
“The president must not repeat his mistakes of the recent past. President Trump, sign this bill,” Schumer said.
Trump said Wednesday he had not yet made his decision.
‘Looking for land mines’
“We’ll be looking for land mines [in the bill],” but “we have not gotten it yet,” Trump said in response to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque.
The president, however, indicated he was pleased with preliminary figures in the deal, saying, “total funding is almost up to $23 billion, it’s about 8 percent higher.”
He said he does not want to see another shutdown and reiterated that his administration is looking at other ways to find funding to complete a border wall.
Trump told a conference of law enforcement officials that “the wall is very, very on its way.”
“As we review the new proposal from Congress, I can promise you this, I will never waiver from my sacred duty to defend this nation and its people,” he said.
Take the deal or national emergency
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he expects the president to work with the legislation.
“If you can use the money the way he envisions for barriers and there is no limit on bed space in reality, he’d be inclined to take the deal and move on,” Graham, who said he spoke to Trump on Tuesday night, told reporters.
Graham said if the deal moves forward, Trump was “very inclined” to declare a national emergency to get the border wall funds.
Using other government money for wall construction without express authorization from Congress would invite a legal challenge from opposition Democrats and other groups.
Under Trump, Congress has not authorized any funding for a wall, one of Trump’s prime pledges during his successful 2016 campaign for the White House. But wall repairs and replacements for deteriorating sections along the 3,200-kilometer border have been ongoing.