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Why both parties are claiming victory on funding for border security

As members of Congress finally arrive at an agreement over how to fund border security and avoid another government shutdown, both Democrats and Republicans are claiming victory -- and fielding criticism that they caved. But with only three days before the deadline, it will be a scramble to pass the proposed legislation. Judy Woodruff gets the latest from Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now, along with our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    Welcome to both of you .

    And, Lisa, I'm going to start with you.

    Both Republicans and Democrats are claiming victory here. What do we know about who got what they wanted?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right. There's a lot of spin and there's some truth to what's going on tonight.

    Let's talk, first of all, the big-ticket item was, of course, the wall, as Yamiche reported, $1.375 billion. She's going to talk a little bit more about that.

    Democrats like to point out that's just a little bit more than Nancy Pelosi said, she offered last year, $1.3 billion. But let's go to the more complex matter. That is these detention beds or the number of detainees that this bill would fund.

    Let's start by explaining this, first of all, what the deal does. As Yamiche reported, it would fund 45,000 average daily detainees for a year. Again, that's the average population funding for a year. Democrats say what they got out of that was a decrease from the current number of detainees in custody, average 49,000. So they say that's a shift down.

    Republicans look at it this way. They say, well, actually it's an increase from what the average daily funding was last year, which was 40,000 detainees. So it really is kind of fun with math in a way, depending on how you look at it.

    I think the best voice on the Hill was Dick Durbin, who just told me, frankly, that was a wash. Essentially, the number of detainees may be about the same. And the president does have the ability to pull from other funds, potentially, or try to raise that funding on his own.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right. It is interesting how they look at these numbers.

    So, Yamiche, the president didn't get all the money he was asking for, but he did get some border security funding, and yet he still has reservations. Why?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president ultimately wants to look like the biggest winner coming out of this. And he wants to keep that facade and that persona that he has that he's "The Art of the Deal" writer,that he's someone who knows how to make deals.

    Central to that is this idea of the wall. The president is happy that he can say I got about $1.4 billion for my wall. And Democrats are saying, well, he didn't really get any money for his wall. It's not — you can't go for concrete walls with this money.

    The president is saying, this is the kind of argument I want to have, because a few weeks ago, during the shutdown, the president said, you know what? I will compromise with you . I will change the materials for the wall that I want.

    Democrat said, that's absolutely a nonstarter. Now, fast-forward a couple weeks, that's exactly the argument that we're having. And the president is saying, I can now build steel slats.

    The other thing that's important, both sides seem to be mad about this. On the conservative side, you have conservative voices who are saying, this deal is pathetic, it's an insult to the president.

    On the Democratic side and on the liberal side ,I have activists that are texting me saying, Nancy Pelosi said she wasn't going to give $1 for this wall, and now she is.

    Then the president is also looking further down the line and saying, if I don't get this money for the wall and all the money that I wanted, the $5.7 billion, I can sign this, and then I can declare a national emergency and I can pull money from other areas.

    It's a little tricky of whether or not he's going to be able to do that. But that's what the president is thinking about as he weighs his options here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, we are now, what, three days away from when Congress is supposed to come to some sort of an agreement on funding.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    When do we think we're going to see the actual language in this legislation or pieces of legislation? And what are the details are we waiting for?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    The only reason we have these details is because people are telling reporters like Yamiche and I. There's no documents at all yet. We believe that we should see the full bill tomorrow. It could be late tomorrow. So then you get to a point where you have two days until the deadline, until Friday.

    And, Judy, this bill is an extraordinary bill. It is seven appropriations bills all together. We're talking about 800 pages of legislation. And this is one reason that you don't hear everyone saying how they will vote yet, because there is concern that there could be some surprises in these bills.

    There also will be some things that we don't know the details of yet like increases in immigration judges. We don't know where they're going to come down on that. So let's say we get the bill tomorrow night. Then we could expect maybe passage, let's say, Thursday, Friday. It's going to go close to the deadline.

    One positive sign for people who don't want a shutdown, which is most everyone, Congress is planning to recess next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so finally, Yamiche, what is next on this whole question of border security? And what's next with regard to immigration reform, which is what this is a piece of?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, this ultimately is going to come down to the president deciding to make a decision, and then making a decision of whether or not he wants to stick with that decision.

    The last shutdown happened because the president made a decision, then changed his mind. So, if the president does that again, we could have a shutdown still.

    The other thing to note is that the president could derail this by adding things to the bill. The president from the White House today said, well, I like this bill, but I want to maybe change some things.

    We're not sure if that means he wants to change things by declaring a national emergency and pulling more money, or if he wants to actually send suggestions up the Hill which could be a completely different issue.

    He also wants to pull money from those different pots that I have been talking about. That could end up being challenged in the courts. And that could be tied up for months or even years.

    The other thing you note, the idea of these other immigrants, I went to a meeting with TPS holders today. A lot of them came from around the country today to lobby on the Hill and to also protest out…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    These temporary…

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Protected status. As I said, yes, temporary protected status.

    These are immigrants who came to the United States because of hurricanes or natural disasters. They were in the Hill. They were at the Hill today and protesting outside the White House. And they say, don't forget about us. We didn't want to be tied to the wall, because we think that that's in some ways a political issue, but we have real issues here. We might be deported come June or July, and we need to figure out what's — what's going to happen there.

    So I talked to a lot of people who are very, very worried about whether or not they're going to go back to countries that they don't remember anymore.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, with regard to taking money from other pots, it's one of the questions I posed to Senator Patrick Leahy, who was part of these final negotiations. And we will be hearing about that in just a few minutes.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


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