by Steve Herman
U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has made no decision on whether to sign proposed bipartisan legislation for limited new barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border in order to avert another partial government shutdown Friday over the dispute.
“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 border security deal worked out by a committee of Republicans and Democrats, saying “total funding is almost up to $23 billion, it’s about 8 percent higher.”
Trump called Democrats stingy when it comes to funding for the wall.
“We’re building a lot of wall right now with money that we already have,” added Trump, explaining that there are “a lot of options” to complete the border barrier’s construction.
“We’re going to have a great wall, it’s going to be a great, powerful wall” with technology, including drones, explained the president.
“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” Trump said.
The bipartisan agreement reached by lawmakers gives Trump less than a quarter of the $5.7 billion he has been demanding for wall construction, which was a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, said earlier Wednesday, “It’s hard to say definitively whether or not the president’s going to sign it until we know everything that’s in it.”
Trump suggested Tuesday that he would tap other government funds for wall construction without express authorization from Congress. Such a move would invite a legal challenge from opposition Democrats and other groups.
Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives has voted yet on the legislation as aides continue to craft final language in the measure. To avert a new shutdown, both chambers have to approve the legislation, and Trump has to sign it before Friday midnight, when numerous federal agencies, including Homeland Security — which controls border operations —again run out of money.
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.
The top leaders in the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, both called on Trump to sign the compromise barrier funding legislation.
“I strongly urge the president to sign this agreement,” Schumer said Tuesday. “No one gets everything they want in these agreements. But the president must sign it and not, not, not cause another shutdown.”
The package calls for new barriers in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, as well as technology upgrades for screening at border entry points, more customs officers and humanitarian aid.
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Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.