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Lawmakers reach agreement 'in principle' to avert shutdown

The Hill logo The Hill 12/02/2019 Jordain Carney

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Lawmakers said on Monday night that they had reached an agreement "in principle" to avoid a second partial government shutdown set to begin on Saturday.

"We've had a good evening. We've reached an agreement in principle between us on the Homeland Security and the other six bills," Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters.

Patrick Leahy et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Lawmakers reach agreement 'in principle' to avert shutdown © Greg Nash Lawmakers reach agreement 'in principle' to avert shutdown The breakthrough came after Sens. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas)-the top members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committee-met three times on Monday night in a last-ditch effort to get a deal.

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Negotiators refused to discuss the particulars of the deal and Lowey said staff were still finalizing the details. Lowey said she hopes for legislation to be released on Wednesday. She called it "a good product."

"I think everyone will say good work," Granger said.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks to reporters as she arrives for a closed-door meeting at the Capitol as bipartisan House and Senate bargainers trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks to reporters as she arrives for a closed-door meeting at the Capitol as bipartisan House and Senate bargainers trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) If negotiators are able to hold an agreement together, it would mark a dramatic U-turn from earlier Monday when both sides were still divided on two key issues: funding for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and a snag on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds.

The group of core negotiators refused to discuss how they resolved the ICE fight, after Democrats proposed a cap on the number of ICE detention beds, arguing it would force the Trump administration to focus on "serious criminals," and that numbers were in line with those from the Obama administration.

"We worked it out in principle. We think it's going to work," Shelby said.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, pauses for reporters as he and other senior bipartisan House and Senate negotiators try to strike a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown, at the Capitol in in Washington, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, pauses for reporters as he and other senior bipartisan House and Senate negotiators try to strike a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown, at the Capitol in in Washington, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Shelby said the agreement includes funding for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but declined to say how much the agreement is for or whether it's more than the $1.6 billion included in the Senate's initial Homeland Security bill.

They said they have the support of their respective leadership teams to strike a compromise.

"There's not a single one of us who's going to get every single thing we want, but nobody does. But we are going to get what is best for the United States," Leahy said.

"If the four of us couldn't get it together, this Congress never could," he added.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, enters a closed meeting room at the Capitol as bipartisan House and Senate bargainers trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown, in in Washington, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, enters a closed meeting room at the Capitol as bipartisan House and Senate bargainers trying to negotiate a border security compromise in hope of avoiding another government shutdown, in in Washington, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) While a deal that has support of leadership from both parties should have little difficulty passing through both chambers, the deal has potential to open rifts in each party. Progressive Democrats may not want to cast votes to fund any measure of physical barriers, while conservative Republicans could balk at any potential limits on ICE or details they see as too soft on border security.

"I think all of us have talked to our different constituencies and different colleagues," said Granger, expressing confidence that the deal would pass.

"This was a very difficult one, and very serious," she added.

The group left the sticking point of disaster aid off the table, and said they would address it separately, but that they expected to include all seven remaining appropriations bills in the package.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with sheriffs in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque © Thomson Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with sheriffs in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Congress has until Saturday to get the seven remaining fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills to Trump's desk to fund roughly 25 percent of the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security.

There were signs that a break-through was imminent earlier Monday evening when Shelby and Leahy, standing side by side as they spoke to reporters, said they were closing in on a deal and could wrap up talks before Tuesday.

"We're talking about reaching an agreement on all of it," Shelby told reporters.

One GOP lawmaker who has been involved with the negotiations said he believes the president will likely take executive action to secure funding for the barrier.

"I think the president will ultimately take other actions no matter what product comes out of that meeting," the lawmaker said.

-Juliegrace Brufke and Niv Elis contributed to this report which was updated at 9 p.m.

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