After 36 days of what President Donald Trump termed a “spirited debate and dialogue,” he was willing to put partisanship aside and agree to a three-week deal to reopen the government until Feb. 15 while Congress finalizes a U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding package he can sign into law. Trump made an announcement on the White House lawn on Friday afternoon.
The announcement comes after a heightened week of back and forth between House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House over what is considered an acceptable path forward for border security funding, resuming those government divisions currently shut down and even a threat from speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) to deny Trump an invitation to give his "State of the Union" address to the chamber on Jan. 29.
Trump’s address signaled that he continues to believe that a southern border wall is the answer to offer border security. “Walls should not be controversial,” Trump said.
He said a bipartisan conference committee will immediately begin reviewing requests of DHS experts and law enforcement professionals. Trump said based on operational guidance from experts in the field, he expects the homeland security package to be signed into law. He added that in the next 21 days, both Democrats and Republicans can operate in good faith and provide an opportunity for all parties to work together for the benefit of the country.
“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 the Constitution to address this emergency,” Trump said in reference to his recent threats to declare border security a national emergency.
“We need people to come to our country,” he said, making reference to the need of many farms to have immigrant laborers.
The Senate is expected to vote on the package first and then send it to the House for final approval before sending it back to the President.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has been strapped without funding through the government shutdown. Just this week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue reordered the opening of Farm Service Agency offices in hopes of helping farmers obtain loans and file needed paperwork, including for trade mitigation payments.
Perdue said in a statement Friday afternoon that he welcomed the news of bringing thousands of USDA employees back to work. He extended his thanks to thousands of workers who stayed on the job during the shutdown to offer as many USDA normal activities as the agency could.
“The President has already signed legislation that guarantees backpay for all employees, and we will move forward on that as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we will prepare for a smooth re-establishment of USDA functions,” Perdue said.
A USDA spokesperson confirmed Friday afternoon that “If USDA is reopened in the next day or two, we expect that the February Lockup will be held on Feb 8 as planned" for the "Crop Production" and "World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates" reports. "We also expect that the 95th Agricultural Outlook Forum scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22 will be held as planned, unless USDA’s funding lapses again before that date. More information regarding other reports that have been delayed due to funding lapse will be forthcoming once all USDA staff return to work.”