Trump Says He Is ‘Extremely Unhappy’ With Border Deal

Congressional negotiators reached tentative deal to avoid a shutdown, providing only a quarter of what White House demanded for wall funding
By Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan
Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
February 12, 2019 Updated: February 13, 2019

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said on Feb. 12 that he is “extremely unhappy” with the tentative deal reached by congressional negotiators. However, he said he would not accept another government shutdown.

“I’m extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us. It’s sad,” he told reporters at a Cabinet meeting. “They’re doing the country no favors. They’re hurting our country very badly. But we certainly don’t want to see a shutdown.”

President Donald Trump talks to reporters
President Donald Trump talks to reporters during a meeting of his cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington on Feb. 12, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Congressional negotiators on Feb. 11 reached an agreement to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A leak from a Democratic congressional source, who has been quoted by the media, claimed that the agreement included only $1.375 billion in funds for the border wall, despite a lack of details from the committee members. This would be short of the $1.6 billion initially included in the Senate’s bill for Homeland Security and significantly short of Trump’s requested $5.7 billion in funding for a border structure.

“Am I happy at first glance? I just got to see it. The answer is no,” Trump said. However, he said he was thrilled with the progress already being made on a wall.

“I’m thrilled because we’re supplementing things and moving things around and we’re doing things that are fantastic, taking from far less important areas. The bottom line is we’re building a lot of wall,” he said. “You think it’s easy? We’re building it in the face of tremendous obstruction and tremendous opposition from a small group of people.”

The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing—constructed through existing designs, such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall—but less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. It closely mirrors Trump’s original budget request from last winter.

Soldiers install barbed wire
Soldiers from the Kentucky-based 19th Engineer Battalion work in a public park in Laredo, Texas, where they are installing barbed and concertina-wire on Nov. 17, 2018. (Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images)

When asked about the possibility of declaring a national emergency to fully fund the wall, Trump said he was considering all options.

“I’m considering everything. We already have national emergencies out there. President Obama, President Clinton, President Bush, they’ve declared many national [emergencies]—this is not unique,” he said.

On the possibility of another government shutdown, Trump said he wouldn’t accept another shutdown.

“I wouldn’t want to see a shutdown. If you did have it, it’s the Democrats fault.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key negotiator in the bipartisan border security conference committee, said that the lawmakers are still working on the legislative text. The office of the Senate Appropriations Committee confirmed that the text would be finalized by Feb. 13.

McConnell, Schumer Tout Deal

While the details of the agreement are still being hammered out, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle welcomed the news.

“Last night, the country heard some good news,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor on Feb. 12. “We now have a bipartisan proposal to accomplish our goals, better secure the border, and avoid another senseless government shutdown. I don’t know the details, but the parameters of this are good.”

Schumer urged Trump to sign the agreement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also touted the deal, saying that the negotiations were able to “move forward productively” after Democrats abandoned their “unreasonable positions.”

“Certainly good news. It provides new funds for miles of new border barriers and it completes all seven outstanding appropriation bills,” he said on the Senate floor on Feb. 12.

Because of the features of the agreement cited by McConnell, Congress can complete a funding process for all the outstanding parts of the federal government with predictability and certainty.

Stocks rose on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 372 points, or about 1.5 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose about 1.3 percent and about 1.5 percent, respectively.

The talks between Republicans and Democrats stalled over the weekend due to a disagreement over detention beds for illegal immigrants who enter the country. Democrats demanded to curb the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, derailing the talks. However, they later dropped their request.

Currently, the agency holds a daily average of 49,000 detainees. The Democratic proposal would have capped the number of detainees at 16,500. According to the sources, the conference committee agreed to adhere to levels established in the previous budget that would fund 40,520 beds. This suggests a 17 percent decline from current levels.

Trump May ‘Reluctantly’ Sign

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leading House conservative and ally of the president is frustrated with the deal, saying that it fails to address the main concerns.

“This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration,” he wrote on Twitter on Feb. 11. “It kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by border patrol chiefs. Congress is not doing its job.”

He believes that Trump will “reluctantly” sign an emerging deal.

“I think he will do so reluctantly, and then, obviously, have to use executive actions to secure our border,” Meadows told reporters on Feb. 12.

Congress needs to reach an agreement by Feb. 16 and get Trump’s signature to avoid another partial government shutdown.

The bipartisan, bicameral conference committee, composed of nine Democrats and eight Republicans, was formed as part of the deal to end the 35-day partial shutdown of the government.

The agreement reached by the conference committee also includes increases for new technologies, such as advanced screening at border entry points, humanitarian aid, and additional customs officers.

On Feb. 10, President Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” that the White House would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with or without funding from Congress.

“The president is going to build the wall,” Mulvaney said. “Our attitude, at this point, is we will take as much money as you can give us and then we will go find money someplace else legally in order to secure that southern barrier. But this is going to get built with or without Congress.”

With reporting by Epoch Times journalists Holly Kellum and Melanie Sun.

Emel Akan
Emel Akan is White House economic policy reporter in Washington, D.C. Previously she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan and as a consultant at PwC. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.