- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The optimism of Monday night’s announced deal on a bill to avoid another government shutdown began to fade Tuesday, as one of the lawmakers charged with negotiating an agreement said he’s not sure he can sign on.

Rep. Tom Graves, Georgia Republican, said he hasn’t even seen “the reported ‘deal,’” but what he has heard is worrisome.

“Based on the reports, I have concerns. Lots of questions too,” the congressman tweeted.

He’s one of 17 negotiators who are supposed to be working on the deal, but most of them were cut out of Monday’s talks.

Just the top four negotiators, Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey and Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Kay Granger, emerged from a meeting late Monday to say they had worked out an agreement in principle.

They said they wouldn’t have all the details on paper until later, but aides said there’s nearly $1.4 billion in money to construct border barriers, and money for space to hold about 42,000 migrants in detention in preparation for deportation.

Both would be more than Democrats had said they would allow, but are less than President Trump sought.

It’s not clear, though, what that detention beds number means in practice, and there were conflicting reports about whether ICE would be forced to release or detain fewer people over the next six months in order to meet Congress’s mandate.

At a campaign rally in Texas late Monday, Mr. Trump said he’d been told that there was a deal but didn’t know the details.

He struck a defiant note to his supporters, saying he would find a way to work around any restrictions on his wall building, and he would reject any bill that made U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement release a large number of illegal immigrants.

“I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of violent criminals into our country,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded more optimistic Tuesday, congratulating the four deal-makers and — while acknowledging that details are still being written — said Democrats caved on several of their red lines.

He said there is money for “miles of new border barriers,” and said Democrats “did abandon” their demand for a hard cap in the number of illegal immigrants that could be detained.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, also said he was happy with what he heard — even though it was all preliminary.

“I don’t know the details but the parameters of this are good,” he said.

He said the news of a deal poses a challenge to Mr. Trump, who rejected a bipartisan agreement to keep the government open in December, sending dozens of agencies into a partial shutdown.

“I urge President Trump to sign this agreement. We must not have a rerun of what happened a few months back,” Mr. Schumer said.

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