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President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, on Feb. 12, 2019.The Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday edged toward backing a deal in Congress on funding for a barrier on the Mexican border, but left open the possibility that disputes over the wall could still cause a partial government shutdown by the weekend.

Mr. Trump, widely blamed for a five-week shutdown that ended in January, said he did not want to see federal agencies close again because of fighting over funds for the wall, one of his signature campaign promises in the 2016 election.

But the Republican president fell short of committing himself to backing the congressional deal, which would keep the government open and provide some money for border security, but not give Mr. Trump the US$5.7-billion he seeks for the wall.

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown. People realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

Mr. Trump said he would hold off on a decision until he sees actual legislation about the issue. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is close to the White House, said Mr. Trump was “inclined to take the deal and move on.”

Mr. Graham told reporters that Mr. Trump would then look elsewhere to find more money to build a wall along the U.S. southern border and was “very inclined” to declare a national emergency to secure the funds.

With a Friday night deadline looming before a shutdown, there is little time for the White House and the political parties in Congress to agree on funding.

The congressional agreement, reached by negotiators on Monday, falls far short of giving Mr. Trump all the money he wants to help build the wall. Instead, congressional sources say, it includes US$1.37-billion for new barriers – about the same as last year – along 90 kilometres of the border.

Details of the legislation were still being written, but the full bill could be made public as early as Wednesday evening, according to lawmakers and congressional aides.

The accord must be passed by the House of Representatives, dominated by Democrats, and the Republican-controlled Senate, then signed by Mr. Trump by midnight on Friday to prevent a shutdown.

The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that some conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.

Like Mr. Trump, congressional Republicans have little appetite for a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown in December and January – the longest in U.S. history – which closed about a quarter of federal agencies and left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.

“It’s time to get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, in reference to voting on the compromise.

Democrats in the House are aiming to schedule a vote on Thursday evening, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, told reporters. If passed, it would then go to the Senate.

OTHER OPTIONS

A White House spokeswoman, Mercedes Schlapp, told CNN that lawyers were reviewing the administration’s options should Congress not provide Mr. Trump’s demanded money for the wall.

The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Mr. Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects along the southern border. CNN, citing the White House, also said Mr. Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.

Mr. Trump previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall – a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.

“We think the president would be on very weak legal ground to proceed,” said Mr. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

Mr. Trump has come in for criticism from the right for wavering on support for the border wall, which the administration says will cut illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“Trump talks a good game on the border wall, but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday. Mr. Trump abandoned a planned compromise on funding for the wall in December after similar criticism.

Read more: Border-wall funding further slashed in latest U.S. spending plan

a short history of

border wall funding

U.S. President Donald Trump made building a

wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border

with Mexico a central promise in his election

campaign. But so far the actual amount of

funding that Congress has authorized for barri-

ers along the border has fallen far short of what

the President has requested:

2016: On the campaign trail Trump says a

border wall will cost about US$8-to US12-billion.

February, 2017: Department of Homeland

Security estimates peg the cost of

a wall at US$21.6-billion.

May, 2017: Congress authorizes funding for

US$341.2-million to replace 40 miles of

border fencing.

(Approved under Obama.)

January, 2018: Trump says he wants

US$25-billion for a wall.

 

February, 2018: Congressional Republicans

and Democrats offer competing proposals

for US$25-billion in border wall funding

spread out over a decade, but the deals fall

apart over disagreements on changes to the

immigration system.

March, 2018: Trump signs a bill that autho-

rizes US$1.375-billion for some construction

at the border, including 25 new miles of wall

in Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

January, 2019: Trump asks for US$5.7-bil-

lion for a border wall.

Feb. 12, 2019: Congressional Republicans

and Democrats say they have signed an

agreement in principle to finance

US$1.375-billion for new fencing. If Mr.

Trump agrees to the compromise, Congress

will have funded slightly more than

US$3-billion in border-wall construction,

much of it to replace existing fencing.

tamsin mcmahon and JOHN SOPINSKI/

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wires

a short history of border wall funding

U.S. President Donald Trump made building a wall along

the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border with Mexico a central

promise in his election campaign. But so far the actual

amount of funding that Congress has authorized for barri-

ers along the border has fallen far short of what the Presi-

dent has requested:

2016: On the campaign trail

Trump says a border wall will

cost about US$8-to US12-billion.

US$8-to

US12-billion

February, 2017: Department

of Homeland Security

estimates peg the cost of

a wall at US$21.6-billion.

May, 2017: Congress autho-

rizes funding for

US$341.2-million to replace

40 miles of border fencing.

(Approved under Obama.)

US$21.6-billion

January, 2018: Trump says

he wants US$25-billion for a

wall.

 

February, 2018: Congressio-

nal Republicans and Demo-

crats offer competing propos-

als for US$25-billion in border

wall funding spread out over

a decade, but the deals fall

apart over disagreements on

changes to the immigration

system.

US$341.2-million

US$25-billion

March, 2018: Trump signs a

bill that authorizes

US$1.375-billion for some

construction at the border,

including 25 new miles of

wall in Rio Grande Valley of

Texas.

US$1.375-billion

January, 2019: Trump asks

for US$5.7-billion for a border

wall.

Feb. 12, 2019: Congressional

Republicans and Democrats

say they have signed an

agreement in principle to

finance US$1.375-billion for

new fencing. If Mr. Trump

agrees to the compromise,

Congress will have funded

slightly more than US$3-bil-

lion in border-wall construc-

tion, much of it to replace

existing fencing.

US$5.7-billion

US$1.375-to

US$3-billion

tamsin mcmahon and JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: wires

a short history of border wall funding

U.S. President Donald Trump made building a wall along the 2,000-mile

(3,200-km) border with Mexico a central promise in his election campaign. But so

far the actual amount of funding that Congress has authorized for barriers along

the border has fallen far short of what the President has requested:

2016: On the campaign trail Trump

says a border wall will cost about

US$8-to US12-billion.

February, 2017: Department of Home

land Security estimates peg the cost of

a wall at US$21.6-billion.

US$8-to US12-billion

May, 2017: Congress authorizes fund

ing for US$341.2-million to replace 40

miles of border fencing.

(Approved under Obama.)

January, 2018: Trump says he wants

US$25-billion for a wall.

 

February, 2018: Congressional Republi-

cans and Democrats offer competing

proposals for US$25-billion in border

wall funding spread out over a decade,

but the deals fall apart over disagree

ments on changes to the immigration

system.

US$21.6-billion

US$341.2-million

March, 2018: Trump signs a bill that

authorizes US$1.375-billion for some

construction at the border, including 25

new miles of wall in Rio Grande Valley

of Texas.

US$25-billion

January, 2019: Trump asks for US$5.7-

billion for a border wall.

US$1.375-billion

Feb. 12, 2019: Congressional Republi-

cans and Democrats say they have

signed an agreement in principle to

finance US$1.375-billion for new fenc-

ing. If Mr. Trump agrees to the compro-

mise, Congress will have funded slight

ly more than US$3-billion in border-wall

construction, much of it to replace

existing fencing.

US$5.7-billion

US$1.375-to US$3-billion

tamsin mcmahon and JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: wires