Written by Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Peter Baker
President Donald Trump agreed Friday to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations continued over how to secure the nation’s southwestern border, backing down after a monthlong standoff failed to force Democrats to give him billions of dollars for his long-promised wall.
The president’s concession paved the way for the House and the Senate to both pass a stopgap spending bill by voice vote. Trump signed it Friday night, restoring normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and opening the way to paying the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days.
The plan includes none of the money for the wall Trump had demanded and was essentially the same approach he rejected at the end of December and that Democrats have advocated since. Trump presented the agreement with congressional leaders as a victory anyway, and indicated in a speech in the Rose Garden that his cease-fire may only be temporary.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”
But Trump conceded “we do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea — we never did” and invoked the utility of “smart walls” that substitute some physical barriers for drones and other sensors.
Democrats said they would work in good faith to strike a deal on border security. They have raised their offer on border security funding considerably and toughened their rhetoric on stopping illegal immigration.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California stated any compromise would not include money for a new border wall, which Democrats view as ineffective and overly costly even though many have supported border fencing in the past.
The cease-fire should clear the way for Trump for deliver his State of the Union address to Congress, but Pelosi said it would not be held Tuesday as originally scheduled. On Friday, the speaker said she would work with Trump to find a new date.