Despite promising there would be no new wall, the Democrats have agreed to pay for 55 miles of new construction along the southern border, according to Republican negotiators.
Senate Republicans are circulating the broad contours of a deal that would fund $1.375 billion for “a wall” along the Mexican border. That amount is far less than the $5.7 billion President Donald Trump demanded to build hundreds of miles of new barrier.
But Republicans appear to be trying to give the deal a positive spin highlighting that the money would allow the administration to build twice as much new barrier than was funded in last year’s budget.
The Democrats are pushing back on the Republicans’ descriptions, arguing that it’s not a “wall” that will be constructed but physical barriers. They also argue that it’s not new wall since the new construction is restricted to existing designs of fencing.
All of the new construction would be built along the Rio Grande Valley sector, which Border Patrol says is the highest priority on it’s strategic plan. It would also include an additional $750 million to pay for an additional 13,000 beds. According to the Republicans, Democrats backed down from demands over the weekend that would limit the number of undocumented immigrants who can be detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Republicans say the deal would increase the total number of detention beds to 58,500.
“In short, there is more than enough flexibility for ICE to respond to any forthcoming surges in illegal immigration and apprehensions,” the document said.
But Trump immediately dismissed the deal during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting in the Roosevelt room saying that he will be “adding things to it.”
“I’m extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us,” Trump said. “I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, one of the Republican negotiators, said he was unsure what Trump was talking about when he said he wanted to add to the deal.
“I don’t know,” Blunt said. “But he won’t be able to do that.”
Multiple GOP lawmakers have also floated that the Department of Homeland Security could shift other funds to supplement the money in the proposal and avoid a national emergency declaration. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, a close ally of Trump in the Senate, suggested that Trump could accept the deal and still declare a national emergency to obtain the full amount of border wall funding he wants.
Asked about Trump being unhappy with the deal, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a top Democratic negotiator, responded: “quel dommage,” or “what a pity.”
Democrats said the framework represents a compromise that would keep the government open and secure the border.
A spokesman for Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, said it was not the agreement that Democrats would have written on their own, but said it blocks the president from fulfilling his signature campaign promise. The spokesman said the legislation also includes funding for the Census bureau, environmental protection and other priorities.
Andrea Drusch, Lesley Clarke and Lindsay Wise contributed.