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By Leigh Ann Caldwell, Hallie Jackson, Garrett Haake and Allan Smith
President Donald Trump is likely to sign a bipartisan agreement to keep the government open and avoid another partial shutdown, three people familiar with the president’s thinking tell NBC News.
The two Republicans who have spoken with the president and an administration official close to the process caution that nothing is set in stone, noting that the legislative text has not been finalized and no one has seen the bill itself.
That said, Trump is likely to greenlight the agreement “barring any drafting surprises or last-minute additions by Democrats,” one of the officials said. The president is also likely to take executive action to redirect federal money to boost funding levels for a border barrier past what Congress has approved, two officials said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also told reporters that the president is leaning toward signing the spending deal as described, noting that the two had spoken about it Tuesday night. He added that Trump is “very inclined” to declare a national emergency as a way of getting more money for his proposed wall.
“I think the president’s inclined to accept the agreement and move on and try to find the money elsewhere, and most likely declare an emergency,” Graham said. When pressed on the emergency declaration, he added, “It’s definitely on the table. I’ll let him tell you whether or not he’s going to do it, but he’s very inclined to go that route.”
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he had not seen the bill, but planned to “take a very serious look at it.”
“We’ll be looking for landmines because you can have that, you know,” the president said. “It’s been known to happen before to people.”
Trump added that he did not want to see another government shutdown because of disagreements over funding for border security and his proposed wall.
“A shutdown would be a terrible thing,” the president said. “I think a point was made with the last shutdown how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made. But I don’t want to see another one. There’s no reason for it.”
The deal, the details of which first emerged on Monday, does not include his sought-after $5.7 billion in border wall funding, which caused Trump to shutter the government for a 35-day stretch ending last month. After lawmakers refused his demands at the time, Trump relented and re-opened the government, agreeing to a temporary funding deal that was set to expire Friday.
Instead, the new agreement provides nearly $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new border fencing, which could include steel slats and other “existing technologies,” and an additional $1.7 billion for other Homeland Security priorities like new technology and more customs personnel, multiple sources told NBC News. Additionally, Democrats dropped a demand to cap the number of beds for undocumented immigrants detained within the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump had said at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that he was “extremely unhappy” with the deal, vowing to build a border wall anyway.
“I am extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “It’s sad. They’re doing the country no favors. They’re hurting our country very badly. But we certainly don’t want to see a shutdown.”
Trump added Tuesday that he is considering all options to fund his proposed border wall. A White House official told NBC News earlier Tuesday that even if Trump signs off on the agreement, other options were on the table to build a more substantial barrier.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the agreement would pass when it comes to the House floor. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the chamber would likely vote on the legislation Thursday night.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise said Wednesday that they would not commit to voting for the deal until they had read the final bill.
“If the language comes out the way the structure is told to me, I would support this,” McCarthy told reporters. “But I want to make sure I read the language and make sure we are giving the president the down payment he needs while he still has the tools to finish the job through, because the Democrats will not allow it to go all the way.”
Republicans said Tuesday that they hoped Trump would sign the deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he thinks the compromise is “a good step in the right direction” and that the measure would get support from Republican lawmakers.
“From a Republican point of view, there is money in there for new barrier fencing, and there is no cap on interior enforcement,” McConnell said. “It’s not everything the president hoped to get, but I think it’s a good step in the right direction.”
On Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted that he had been presented with the deal and doubled down on his promise to build the wall anyway, praising Republicans for putting up with the “Radical Left” during border negotiations.
“Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources … ,” the president tweeted. “Will be getting almost $23 BILLION for Border Security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak!”