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Congress scrambles to iron out complicated funding legislation

Congressional negotiators revealed more about a proposed funding deal Wednesday, but President Trump has yet to indicate whether he'll sign it. With just two days left before a second government shutdown would take effect, the pressure is on to hammer out the legislation's details. Judy Woodruff talks to Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor about potential sticking points and "political theater."

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congress is still waiting tonight to see if President Trump will back a border security deal. He called today for building a southern border wall as hard to scale as Mount Everest, amid reports that he will grudgingly accept something well short of that demand.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Donald Trump:

    We're going to look at the legislation when it comes, and I will make a determination then.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    For a second day, President Trump wouldn't say yes or no on the border deal negotiated in Congress. As he met with the president of Colombia, Mr. Trump was cautious and complimentary both.

  • Donald Trump:

    We will be looking for land mines, because you could have that. It's been known to happen before to people. I appreciate all the work the Republicans have done, because they're really going against a radical left. It's a radical left.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At the Capitol, congressional negotiators worked on final issues and tweaks to the bipartisan deal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged criticism of the bill from the right and the left.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    As with all compromises, I say to people, support the bill for what is in it, don't judge it for what is not in it. We can't pass it until it's ready, and when it's ready, we will be ready to pass it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The chair of the House Democratic Caucus, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, was equally optimistic.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    The overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus will support this legislation that will be presented on the House floor tomorrow. Beyond that, we will see what the president does, but I'm hopeful that he will sign this into law.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    House Minority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy was also hopeful.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.:

    If the language comes out the way the structure is told to me, I would support this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged both parties had to give and take to get to this point.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    Neither side is getting everything it wants. That's the way it goes in divided government. If the text of the bill reflects the principles agreed to on Monday, it won't be a perfect deal, but it will be a good deal.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, appealed directly to the president.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    In politics, to quote the rolling Stones, you can't always get what you want. It's time to put the months of shutdown politics behind us.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    With just two days to go before Friday's midnight deadline, President Trump has said this: He doesn't want to see a second government shutdown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa is here with me, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, Lisa, what is the best you know, you can tell us about when we're going to see this bill, and what's in it and what's being negotiated still?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I have been just checking with sources, hearing back from them.

    It looks like they do expect us to see the text tonight. That time keeps slipping back. I'm now told hopefully by midnight, so it's going to be a very late night. If that happens, if we see the text tonight, then we also expect votes tomorrow, at least in the House and possibly in the Senate as well.

    But, Judy, tomorrow is tricky because there are two funerals for departed members of Congress, one for John Dingell here in Washington, another in the afternoon for Walter Jones in North Carolina. Many members are flying to that funeral. They will go to that funeral and return to Washington, and only then can the votes begin on this package.

    Now, as to what's in the package, what are learning today, a couple of new things. We know that this deal includes a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal workers, also $1 billion for the census. That's something they have been asking for and even more.

    And, Judy, it's interesting. It's very specific about that border barrier money we have been talking about. It says 55 miles, 45 miles for land fencing, and 10 miles for levees.

    One other thing. There are still negotiations going on tonight between leadership sources over two things, one, whether contractors should get back pay as part of this deal. The other thing, should the Violence Against Women Act be extended as it is, which Republicans want, or should there be more restrictions on, say, weapon ownership by potential abusers? That's what Democrats want.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating, how these other issues arise in a situation like.

    So, Yamiche, the big question still on everybody's mind is, what is the president going to do? What have you learned about whether he is inclined to sign it or not?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has not decided whether or not he will sign this bill.

    And, ultimately, it doesn't look likely that there is going to be a shutdown, but the government is not out of the woods yet. I have been talking to conservatives all day, and they say that the president likes a little bit of political theater.

    They think that the president likes the drama. He likes the idea of his opponents waiting until the last minute to know what he's going to do. And they think of this as the president really looking as he wants to be a negotiator who's unpredictable.

    But the White House pushes back on that image. When I talk to aides, they say the president hasn't made up his mind because the text of the bill hasn't been received by the White House. They say once that text is received, White House aides are going to comb through it. They're going to then make a presentation to the president, and the president then is going to look for sweeteners.

    Some specific things that he's looking for, the number of immigration judges that are included in the bill. He also wants to know exactly what the wall money can be used for. They want to know, where can we put this wall, exactly where can the materials come from?

    It's really interesting that the president is weighing those options. The bottom line here, though, is the president doesn't know what he's going to do. There's been a lot of back and forth on whether or not the president intends to sign this.

    But, as of this hour, the president has not made up his mind.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, you mentioned, Yamiche, the wall. We know the president didn't get all the money that he wanted for the wall.

    And yet the White House is saying that they're still going to go ahead and build more of a barrier. How do they plan to do that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the White House is really unhappy with the number they're getting for this wall number — I mean, for this wall funding.

    The president is not happy. He wanted $5.7 billion. Instead, he got $1.37 billion. The White House is looking at this idea of whether or not he can pull from different funds. The president hasn't decided which pot he's going to pull from, but the key question is who does he want to make mad?

    On the one hand, conservatives tell me that the president would look very happy to his base and it would be very good for his base if he pulled money from the DOD or the Army Corps of Engineers or possibly even disaster funding just to say, I signed this bill, I made the deal, I avoided the shutdown, but, by the way, I also still got my money for the wall.

    However, Republicans on Capitol Hill might be very angry at that. I'm thinking of senators from states like Texas. If the president takes money that was made — that was supposed to be used for hurricane funding or flooding and says, you know what, I'm going to build my wall, that could really be a really political land mine essentially for people on the Hill.

    So the president's going to have to decide who he wants to make mad and whether or not he thinks he can be a winner with wherever he pulls the money from.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa, that brings me to you. What is Congress' role as he looks for that money?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It depend on the source of money.

    There is some money from drug seizures and from some powers the Department of Defense has in the war on drugs that it seems the president might be able to take initially without approval.

    But there is a lot of all these other funds are called transfers, reprogramming. And, traditionally, each Appropriations Committee in Congress must approve that. Well, now, one of those appropriations committees is run by Democrats, the House Appropriations Committee.

    Democrats say they will object. Where does that go? Probably to court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, watch this, for sure. We will be watching.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

    And we will talk to the Senate's number two Republican, John Thune, a little later in the program.

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