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GOP leaders lobby Trump to support spending deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media as Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. Todd Young, and Senate Majority Whip John Thune listen on Feb. 5. GOP leaders are urging Trump to agree to the latest spending deal. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

GOP leaders are urging passage of the bipartisan spending deal reached this week by congressional negotiators, even as Washington waits to see if President Donald Trump and his conservative allies try and tank the pact.

The top Republican leaders in Congress mounted a quick campaign to convince Trump that he’d come out on top over Democratic resistance to ICE enforcement and border barrier funding. Top GOP members of Congress are still worried that Trump could reject the deal, just as he spurned spending legislation in December that sparked a 35-day partial government shutdown.

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“I never try and predict,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), on Tuesday morning. But he argued in favor of the compromise: “I’m inclined to be for something that gets us out of the current logjam we are in and builds the wall and keeps the government open. From what I can tell, it seems like the Dems gave a lot of ground.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) weighed in warmly about the bipartisan, bicameral pact on Tuesday morning and said he hopes the “Senate can act” on the bill as soon as possible. The GOP leader touted the legislation as a rejection of the “extreme positions” of liberals and said the agreement is “certainly good news.”

“It provides new funds for miles of new border barriers,” McConnell said. “We are grateful to our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee for their leadership.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asserted on CNBC that Democrats caved and said the party had reversed itself from providing no new wall money and limiting detention beds for interior enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The Democrats have now agreed to more than 55 miles of new barrier being built,” McCarthy said.

The deal includes roughly the same amount of funding for fencing that Democrats have been offering for two months.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News that it was too early to weigh in on whether the president will sign it.

“We aren’t sure to be quite honest,” Gidley said. “Until we actually see it, it is very difficult to comment on it.”

The campaign by top Republicans to sway Trump came as critics on the right began panning the deal that provides $1.375 billion in funding for a border barrier — far less than the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded. Fox News host Sean Hannity called it a “garbage compromise” and conservative commentator Ann Coulter circulated criticisms of the compromise on Twitter.

“I haven’t signed off on the reported ‘deal’ nor have I seen it. Based on the reports, I have concerns. Lots of questions too,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), a top conservative voice in the House.

Republicans and Democrats engaged in a spin war as soon as the deal was announced, with Republicans asserting new miles of the wall will be built and Democrats highlighting a spending number that’s now less than the $1.6 billion the Senate offered Trump last year for fencing. The text of the legislation is still not available.

Democrats could face defections on the left. Progressives were pushing to put a hard cap on detention beds for ICE enforcement within the United States and did not receive it, and some may be unable to support any new barrier funding.

House Democratic leaders were set to meet on Tuesday afternoon about the deal, and senators in both parties will assess the legislation at party lunches on Tuesday. High profile Senate Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin said they would withhold judgment on the proposal until they have more details.

But Democrats said the president should shrug off the criticisms on the right.

“I strongly urge the president to sign this,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “No one gets everything we want in these agreements. The president must sign it and not, not, not cause another shutdown.”

Rebecca Morin contributed to this report.

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