President Trump signaled to a GOP senator over the weekend that he is searching for a “simple” border wall deal in advance of the new funding deadline next month — casting more doubt on the prospects of a broader immigration deal before portions of the government shut down again.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who lunched privately with the president Sunday at the White House, also indicated that Trump is prepared to act on his own should a new committee on Capitol Hill struggle to come up with an agreement on the wall that satisfies him. Trump is mulling the prospect of issuing a national emergency declaration to start wall construction without congressional approval — a move that will almost certainly face an immediate challenge in the courts.
“He wants as simple of a solution as we can get,” Perdue said in an interview Monday. While the president would like a more sweeping immigration package at some point, Perdue said Trump acknowledges “that’s just not realistic in three weeks.”
Perdue added that while Trump is “hopeful” that a new bipartisan committee of 17 lawmakers can strike a deal on modest border security, “at the end of the day, if in three weeks [there is no resolution], this president’s ready to move.”
Calling Trump “resolute,” Perdue said the new committee “should face the reality that if they don’t get something done, something else will have to be done.”
“I will say that he’s upbeat, he’s dedicated to this, and he has not changed his tenor in this thing,” Perdue said. “He’s committed. It’s an instinctive thing with him.”
Trump on Friday ended the longest government shutdown in history prompted by a confrontation over his demand for border wall money, although the government agencies hampered by the shutdown — including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury and Commerce — won only a short-term funding reprieve.
Now, a committee of 17 lawmakers — primarily deal-minded and pragmatic members with experience in congressional appropriations — is tasked with coming up with a border wall deal. Their first public meeting will be held Wednesday.
“The president doesn’t want to go through another shutdown. That’s not the goal,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday. “The goal is border security and protecting the American people. Ideally, Democrats would take these next three weeks to negotiate in good faith.”
The Sunday lunch with Perdue was not listed on Trump’s daily public schedule. The senator said the president had a “full day” of meetings — although no other weekend meetings were made public.
The Georgia Republican, one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, was also at Camp David over the weekend with other GOP senators and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, according to people familiar with the gathering.
The Camp David confab was largely social, although some border security discussions were expected to occur. Trump phoned into the meeting at one point, telling the Senate Republicans that he wished he could’ve attended the gathering and that Camp David is a special place, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting.
In turn, the GOP senators thanked Trump for his comments earlier that afternoon in the Rose Garden and his decision to sign a short-term spending bill that keeps the federal government fully open through Feb. 15. The GOP senators who were at Camp David in addition to Perdue included Joni Ernst (Iowa), James Lankford (Okla.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.).
A small handful of Democrats were invited, but declined, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private gathering.