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Lawmakers reach "an agreement in principle" to avert government shutdown

"Agreement in principle" to avoid gov't shutdown

Washington — After hours of deliberations, Republican and Democratic appropriators said Monday night they reached "an agreement in principle" on legislation to fund the government past the Friday deadline and avert another shutdown. 

The proposal, which would fund all seven remaining appropriations bills, includes $1.375 billion in funding for physical barriers — in the form of 55 miles of bollard fencing — and a reduction in overall Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds from the current 49,057 level to 40,520, according to a congressional aide. 

But the agreement is already alienating some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "While the President was giving a great speech in El Paso, Congress was putting together a bad deal on immigration," GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio tweeted. Congressman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and chair of the caucus, called the conference agreement "hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration."

It is unclear if President Trump will support the budget agreement, which was brokered minutes before he held a rally in the Texas border city of El Paso to decry illegal immigration and tout his hardline immigration agenda. In an interview recorded before the rally, the president told Fox News' Laura Ingraham he was briefed on the deal "very quickly."

"A lot of things have changed. And we'll see what happens," he told Ingraham.

Asked if the White House supported the deal, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters, "We hope so. We think so."

But two senior administration officials said the White House was waiting for the details of the congressional agreement in principle, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has become a key White House ally, suggested the president may not support the deal.

"I know the president will never sign a bill that caps bed space for violent offenders because that is crazy," Graham said on Fox News' "Hannity" Monday. "It's dangerous. You will incentivize more illegal immigration." 

"The president will not agree to it. To get more wall money to limit bed space is a bad, dangerous deal," he added. 

Lawmakers were scrambling to flesh out an agreement and have a budget measure ready before the current continuing resolution (CR) partially funding federal government operations expires Friday.

Over the weekend, talks between a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators, largely made up of appropriators with experience on committees with oversight of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), broke down over the number of beds in ICE detention centers — which Democrats want to cap and reduce.

Democrats reasoned that capping ICE's detention beds would force the administration to narrow its deportation efforts, focusing on "criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country," Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the lead House Democratic negotiator, wrote in a statement. A government data clearinghouse run by Syracuse University notes in an analysis of ICE data that most ICE detainees have no criminal conviction and almost 75 percent have no serious convictions.

But President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress slammed Democrats for demanding a cap, accusing them of trying to hinder ICE's ability to detain violent criminals. "The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens! This is a brand new demand. Crazy!" the president wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

Last month, the president temporarily backed off his $5.7 billion demand for border wall funding and signed a continuing resolution to fund the government for three weeks. The short-term deal ended a 35-day stalemate in budget negotiations between the White House and lawmakers and brought a temporary reprieve to approximately 800,000 workers across nine federal departments who had been furloughed or working without pay.

Alan He, Rebecca Kaplan and Major Garrett contributed reporting.

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