Another US govt shutdown averted? Republicans, Democrats reach in-principle agreement, but Donald Trump could play spoiler

Washington: Democrats and Republicans have struck a deal in principle to fund the US government and avert another crippling government shutdown while denying President Donald Trump much of the $5.7 billion he demanded to build a controversial wall along the US-Mexico border. The announcement by lawmakers on Monday night came days ahead of a possible government shutdown from Friday in the absence of such an agreement.

File image of US President Donald Trump. AP

File image of US President Donald Trump. AP

Senate and House negotiators from both parties, who held a closed-door meeting in Washington, did not comment on the details of the deal, saying the staff is still working on last-minute logistics. Sharp differences between Democrats and President Donald Trump over border security and building a wall along the US-Mexico border resulted in a record partial government shutdown for more than 30 days. Building a wall along the US-Mexico border is a campaign promise of the 72-year-old Republican president.

"We've had a good evening. We've reached an agreement in principle between us on the Homeland Security and the other six bills," Senator Richard Shelby told reporters on Monday night. As a result, the House and the Senate are likely to pass a new resolution before the 15 February deadline. According to reports, the bill would provide $1.375 billion for barrier funding, far less than $5.7 billion congressional funding Trump has demanded to build the wall.

According to Trump, illegal immigrants pose a national security risk to the US and can only be stopped by the construction of a border wall.  If accepted, the deal would end a standoff in which Trump has threatened to cut budgets from swaths of government this Friday. The tentative agreement, according to The Hill, also specifically prohibits the use of a concrete wall. But, senior Congressional aides separately noted that it will fund new barriers for approximately 88 kilometers along the US-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley sector. The agreement came as Trump went to the southern border in El Paso, Texas to address a rally with his supporters on the wall.

The White House did not comment on the agreement and Trump said at the rally, "We probably have some good news but who knows." Addressing thousands of his supporters, many wearing his red "Make America Great Again" campaign hats, Trump said: "We need the wall and it has to be built and we want to build it fast." Earlier in the day, Trump said another government shutdown depends on the Democrats. "We've actually started a big, big portion of wall today in a very important location. And it's going to go up pretty quickly over the next nine months. That whole area will be finished. It's fully funded," he said at a White House event.

Trump said the wall could be given any name. “We need a wall. We can call it anything. We'll call it barriers. We'll call it whatever they want. But now, it turns out not only don't they want to give  us money for the wall, they don't want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers," he said. In December, Trump pushed back at Congress by refusing to fund large sections of the government, leading to record-breaking government shutdown in America's history that affected some 800,000 federal employees.

Last month, Trump backed a deal to temporarily end the five-week shutdown despite getting no funding for his controversial plan to build the wall along the US-Mexico border. The deal resolved the crippling 35-day closure but not the fight over his proposed border wall. He had given Congress until 15 February to come up with the wall money or face another shutdown. The federal government shutdown cost the US economy a whopping $11 billion, including a permanent $3 billion loss, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said last month.

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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 21:40:30 IST

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