President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) reached a short-term resolution to the government shutdown on Friday.
The deal, announced by the president during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, will reopen the government for nearly three weeks allowing more than 800,000 federal workers to receive their first paycheck of the year. While the deal will allow the government to commence normal operation, it leaves border security unaddressed.
In his remarks, Trump asserted that he was not capitulating on his request for more than $5 billion to fund construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the president argued he was challenging Congress to act so he wouldn't have to address the issue through the "very powerful alternative" of declaring a national emergency.
"This is an opportunity to work together for the benefit of our whole beautiful, wonderful nation," Trump said. "If we make a fair deal, the American people will be proud of their government for proving that we can put country before party. We can show all Americans and people all around the world, that both political parties are united when it comes to protecting our country and protecting our people."
"Many disagree, but I really feel that working with Democrats and Republicans, we can make a truly great and secure deal happen for everyone. Walls should not be controversial."
"The walls that we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls designed to meet the needs of frontline border agents and are operationally effective…. We do not need miles of concrete walls from sea to shining sea. We never did. We never proposed that and we never wanted that because we have barriers at the border where natural structures are as good as anything that we can build."
The president said he was hopeful a bipartisan solution on border security was possible because a number of Democrats had "finally and fully acknowledged that having barriers, fencing, or walls" would be an "important part of the solution."
"After 36 days of spirited debate and dialogue, I have seen and heard from enough Democrats and Republicans [to believe] that they are willing to put partisanship aside … and put the security of the American people first."
Prior to the temporary resolution, opposition to a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border was crumbling among freshman and moderate Democrats in the House. The defections occurred even though Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership claimed there was a "totally united" front in opposition to the wall.
Democrats' finessing on the issue was exhibited on Wednesday by freshman representative Kendra Horn of Oklahoma as the shutdown stretched past 34 days.
"We need to get the government back open again and then let's have a broader conversation that puts everything on the table in terms of border security," Horn said in an interview with Oklahoma's KOKH. "That includes smart technology, that includes perhaps in some places a physical barrier."
Democratic representative Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), a freshman who the Trump administration courted in efforts to end the budget impasse, made a similar admission.
"Some element of a physical barrier, better technology, more border agents are all things I support. But we also have to look at immigration reform, reform of the asylum process to clear the backlog," Brindisi said during a recent radio interview. "We should be working with [foreign] countries to improve conditions so people aren't forced to flee and end up on our doorstep. But we also have to have strong borders, I agree with that."
Likewise, freshman congressman Ben McAdams (Utah) expressed optimism that a "border barrier could be part" of a compromise deal. McAdams, like Brindisi, refused to support Pelosi's bid for the speaker's gavel and has been critical of Pelosi's handling of the shutdown. Earlier this week, the congressman helped author a letter from House freshmen urging the speaker to "guarantee a vote" on border-wall funding in exchange for an agreement by the president to reopen the government ahead of time.
Freshmen Democrats weren't the only ones indicating a willingness to compromise. Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.), the chairman of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, urged Pelosi and the rest of the leadership to be realistic about what it would take to appropriately secure the border.
"Democrats and [Democratic] leaders should recognize there may be some additional areas on the border that might require some fencing or steel slats … we already have a lot of it down there already," Kind told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The congressman's office did not return requests for comment on this story.
The most prescient calls for a border wall from within the Democratic majority, however, came from House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.).
"Give Trump the money," Peterson told a local Minnesota radio station on Tuesday. "I'd give him the whole thing … and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be."
"Why are we fighting over this? We're going to build that wall anyway, at some time," Peterson added.
If Congress fails to act, then the president said he would be forced to take the matter into his own hands.
"As commander in chief, my highest priority is the defense of our great country," Trump said. "We cannot surrender operational control over the nation's borders to foreign cartels, traffickers, and smugglers … we really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier."
"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down … again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the constitution of the United States to address this emergency," he added.