A group of Republican and Democratic senators said Monday they had reached an agreement in principle on funding the government ahead of a looming deadline that threatens a second partial government shutdown, US media reported.
Lawmakers face a February 15 deadline to fund the government but negotiations have stalled over President Donald Trump’s demand for 5.7 billion dollars to build a wall along the border with Mexico, which Democrats have rejected.
If the deadline is not met, the government will likely partially shut down again, forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to work without pay or go on furlough.
The president has threatened to declare a national emergency to obtain the funding without congressional approval if no deal is reached. Such a move, which has garnered support from some Trump allies, would almost certainly face legal challenges.
A bipartisan group of senators emerged from negotiations on Monday telling reporters they had reached an agreement but declined to discuss the details.
“We got an agreement on all of it,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby said according to CNN.
Trump agreed to fund the government for three weeks to allow for negotiations after no progress was reached during the longest federal shutdown in US history, which ended on January 25.
The president says his wall is necessary to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants, narcotics and human trafficking into the US. Democrats say it would be an ineffective tool to control the border and some have called it immoral.
Speaking at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas shortly after the senators’ announcement, Trump said he had not yet been briefed on the funding deal.
“Safety is the birthright of every American, which is why we must finish the wall,” Trump told a boisterous crowd.
El Paso has been a main rallying point for the president who says a border wall built in the area significantly reduced crime there. But statistics show crime was already falling before the wall was built there in the late 2000s.
Nevertheless Trump took aim at Republican Mayor Dee Margo, who had earlier on Monday also challenged his remarks on crime.
“I don’t care if a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat, they’re full of crap when they say it hasn’t made a big difference,” the president said.
While he was speaking, Beto O’Rourke, a former member of Congress and a possible Democratic candidate for president, led a counter-rally nearby.
“We know that walls do not save lives, walls end lives,” O’Rourke told supporters. “Let’s own this moment and the future. Show the country there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the US-Mexico border.”