National Security

McConnell Hopeful for Funding Deal Despite Tight Shutdown Deadline

Majority leader believes there's still time for lawmakers of both sides to come up with an agreement before February 15

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he is still hopeful lawmakers will reach a deal to avert the next government shutdown despite a tight deadline.

President Donald Trump has been in an ongoing political fight to secure funding for a border security wall.

The political dispute got so bad it led to a record-long partial government shutdown that began on December 22 and ended in late January.

McConnell told reporters during a press conference he’s hopeful a deal will be reached before another government shutdown occurs on February 15.

“The conference is having useful bipartisan discussions in trying to craft this bill in a way that allows us to address border security,” McConnell said.

“We pray for them each night and hope for the best. We’re looking forward to what they’re going to do tomorrow … We’re going to bring in the experts and hear from them, people that don’t have a political axe to grind one way or another and who are in the border security business.”

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Related: White House Fights for Border Security with Possible New Shutdown Ahead

Trump said late last year that he wouldn’t sign any more spending bills that did not include $5.7 billion for the southern border security wall.

Democratic leaders opposed funding for the wall, which led to a government shutdown. Trump eventually backed off a veto threat by signing the short-term spending bill on January 25.

“I think there is plenty of time,” McConnell said Tuesday. “When you reach an agreement, things happen rapidly around here. We’re hoping they’ll be able to do that and that the president indicates he’s willing to sign the bill.”

The spending bill reopened the government for another three weeks to give both sides time to negotiate a deal on border security. That still means another shutdown could be right around the corner. The House and Senate formed the conference committee tasked with reaching a deal on funding the rest of the government as well as border security.

“Every time we leave it to the conference, Democrat and Republican, the House and Senate, we’ve been able to come up with a good agreement,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a separate press conference on Tuesday. “It’s when the president interferes that there’s a problem. So my advice to the president: If you don’t want to shut down the government, if you don’t want declare a national emergency, which I’m opposed to and I don’t think will happen, stay out of it.”

Related: Trump Not Willing to Cave on Border Wall Amid Longest Shutdown

Congress was able to fund most of the government by passing the two biggest minibus packages in September 2018. Lawmakers even faced an earlier deadline that they were able to extend before the government partially closed on September 30. The second package of spending bills also included a continuing resolution that extended the original shutdown deadline.

“We would like to finish the appropriations process,” McConnell said. “It has long since been forgotten, but 75 percent was done before the end of the fiscal year. We were on the way [to] getting all 12 bills until we ended up [with] the wall debate. So I’d love to see us finish the work that we’re supposed to do every single year.”

Trump stressed the importance of a border wall throughout the shutdown. He argued the wall is critical to deterring the flow of illegal drugs and criminal gangs into this country during his visit to the border on January 10.

He made similar arguments during press conferences during the shutdown as well. He also dedicated his first Oval Office address to the issue.

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