There was some all-too-infrequent good news from the nation’s capital earlier this week when congressional negotiators from both parties were able to sit down and hammer out a deal to avoid a repeat of the 35-day government shutdown that resulted in countless problems in December and January.
Lawmakers tentatively agreed to a deal that would fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. As part of the legislative package, the compromise agreement would provide nearly $1.4 billion for border barriers, well short of the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump has demanded for construction of a barrier along the border separating Mexico and the United States.
The agreement would allow 55 miles of new fencing — constructed using existing designs such as metal slats — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
The day after congressional negotiators announced their tentative agreement, Trump commented in a cabinet meeting, “I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m thrilled.” But he stopped short of saying he would refuse to sign the compromise, avoiding a second government shutdown beginning Friday.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Trump, facing mounting pressure from his own party, appears to be grudgingly leaning toward accepting the agreement. Trump turned down a similar deal in December, forcing the 35-day partial shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks.
There was more encouraging news Wednesday when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that bill writers were “still tinkering” with the legislation’s language and that the president was waiting for a final version. She added that while “the president isn’t fully happy” with everything in the bill, “there are some positive pieces of it.”
“I hope he signs the bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Associated Press. McConnell joined other GOP leaders in selling it as a necessary compromise that represented a major concession from Democrats.
While Trump has suggested that he doesn’t think another shutdown was going to happen, he has also made clear that, if he does sign the bill he is strongly considering supplementing the congressional compromise’s allocation for the wall by moving money from what he described as less important areas of government.
“We have a lot of money in this country and we’re using some of that money — a small percentage of that money — to build the wall, which we desperately need,” Trump said.
The White House has been laying the groundwork for Trump to use executive action to bypass Congress and divert money into wall construction. He could declare a national emergency or invoke other executive authority to tap funds, including money set aside for military construction, disaster relief and counterdrug efforts.
We would like to hope that the bipartisan congressional effort to reach a compromise agreement to avoid a second — and clearly counterproductive — government shutdown is a harbinger of a new and sorely needed effort at compromise in Congress, replacing what has become a cesspool of ineffectual political bickering.