US lawmakers have announced a tentative deal to avert another government shutdown, raising hopes that Congress can pass a spending bill before the Friday deadline, if President Donald Trump decides to sign it.
For weeks a team of bipartisan lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate have been working behind closed doors to hammer out a deal that would satisfy Mr Trump’s demands for funding for a US-Mexico border barrier, while also mollifying Democrats who repeatedly stated during the course of the earlier partial federal government shutdown that they would not give the president money for his wall.
Congressional aides said the tentative agreement struck would include close to $1.4bn for 55 new miles of border barrier.
Lawmakers suggested it would also resolve issues about the number of detention beds allocated to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — a matter of contention for Democrats and Republicans.
Congressional negotiators appeared cautiously optimistic that the deal, which they called “an agreement in principle”, would satisfy both Mr Trump’s White House, which is demanding a significant escalation of the current barrier at the border, and Democrats, who had demanded a reduction in the number of ICE detention beds.
Richard Shelby, the Republican chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, said he was optimistic the agreement would secure the necessary approval from the White House. “We think so. We hope so,” he told reporters.
However, its fate hangs in balance until the group can secure the approval of both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as the White House.
In Congress, both parties have repeatedly stated they are strongly against a second government shutdown. The most recent shutdown — the longest in US history — lasted a total of 35 days and affected 800,000 federal workers, with knock-on effects for US government contractors as well as the economy.
While opinion polls showed a majority of Americans believed the White House was at fault for that shut down, lawmakers of both parties have been skittish of the potential consequences should they fail to keep the government open for a second time in a matter of weeks.
“Certainly traumatising federal employees, [and] shutting down the government is not an option,” Steny Hoyer, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the House, told NBC’s Meet The Press Daily on Monday evening, ahead of the latest round of negotiations.
“ . . . we absolutely don’t want to see a shutdown of any agency or department of the government Friday at midnight, period. And we will take steps to ensure that doesn’t happen,” Mr Hoyer added.