That did not completely assuage conservatives. Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, contradicted the White House line and declared that the agreement was “a bad deal for the president.”
“Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing $25 billion for border security measures and expect applause at 1.37,” he said Tuesday on Fox News. “I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal.”
Mr. Meadows and his allies were among those targeted by the White House in hopes of avoiding a more threatening conservative revolt. A meeting with members of his Freedom Caucus in the Oval Office was partly aimed at urging them to hold their fire in television interviews when talking about the bill, according to a person briefed on the effort.
And indeed, despite his complaints about the bill, Mr. Meadows made a point on Wednesday of not blaming Mr. Trump. “I think he handled it as well as anybody could handle it, given a dysfunctional Congress,” Mr. Meadows told reporters.
Among those involved in the outreach, according to the person briefed on the discussions, was Bill Shine, a White House deputy chief of staff and former Fox executive who in the West Wing is seen as adept at getting some hosts at Fox to respond to White House concerns.
Since coming to office, Mr. Trump has missed several opportunities to make more progress on the wall. Instead of Mexico directly paying for a $25 billion, 1,000-mile concrete barrier, as the president once said would happen, he has been seeking partial installments from Congress, arguing that his new trade agreement with Mexico will ultimately pay off enough to offset the cost. The partial installments have generally gone to replacing or repairing existing barriers, not to building the new concrete or steel walls Mr. Trump wants.
At one point last year, the president and Democrats were close to a deal in which he would get all $25 billion for the wall in exchange for protections for 1.8 million young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. But Mr. Trump ultimately turned away because he also wanted cuts to legal immigration that Democrats would not accept.