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Party leaders reach deal to avoid fresh US government shutdown | US news


Democratic and Republican leaders have reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown when funding under a stopgap agreement expires at midnight on Friday.

The proposal, announced late on Monday, would require the signature of Donald Trump to avert a new shutdown.

The agreement would allocate far less money for Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7bn wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4bn, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends 30 September.

The agreement means the construction of 55 miles of new fencing – built through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall – but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”, he added.

Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February.

Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.

While most of the government departments involved in the shutdown are not tied to immigration policy, Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall has put border security at the center of the negotiations to keep the government open.

The most recent shutdown – the longest in US history – began in mid-December, when Trump rejected a spending package approved by congressional Republicans and demanded $5.7bn to construct a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Democrats have opposed funding for a border wall, saying that pressure from undocumented immigrants is a made-up emergency and that money for border security would be better dedicated to additional technology, personnel and other enforcement measures.

The shutdown cost the economy $11bn and reduced growth forecasts by almost half a percentage point, the congressional budget office estimated.

Since then, Trump has not abandoned his demand for a border wall. The president was holding a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night to once again convince voters of its necessity. Giant banners inside the rally venue, the El Paso County Coliseum, read “Finish the wall”.

The Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native who is weighing a 2020 presidential run, staged a competing rally. “We are here to follow the lead of this great community and make sure the country sees us at our best,” he told NBC News.

The negotiators at work in Washington on Monday included four Democrats and four Republicans. They are a cut-out of a larger group of 17 members of Congress assigned to seek a deal after the historic shutdown ended on 25 January.

Congressional sources said that one sticking point in negotiations was the Republicans’ refusal to accept a cap on the number of undocumented immigrants who might be held in detention centers run by the Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Democrats say that an absence of such a cap, pegged at 16,500 detainees, could be exploited by the Trump administration to round up an indefinite number of detainees.





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