The moment seemed like a triumph, the powerful Democrats striking a temporary accord to avoid a shutdown before the next deadline.
But that victory, and the broader calculus of many Democrats, quickly evaporated as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reneged on promises of funding for various parts of President Trump’s $5.7 billion construction proposal, while drawing Republican support for his request for $1.7 billion for border barriers.
Whether Pelosi and her Democrats can prevail over staunch opposition from liberals remains an open question, as was the fate of Pelosi’s most prominent political ally in the negotiations, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
But what matters most is that the ultimate outcome at least appeared poised to be short of a shutdown, albeit a partial one.
Conservatives initially seemed emboldened by the agreement reached early Saturday morning, but the issues Pelosi settled on later put her Democrats in a harder position and gave Republicans cover to vote for funding without compromising their conservative principles.
“There is never going to be any opportunity for any compromise with the Republican position on this issue,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). “I would not want to be on the wrong side of history.”
Democrats, by contrast, were as humiliated as Republicans were elated and shrugged off the criticism they received from Democrats.
“She talked about what her principles are: What she supports the president doing, and what the president opposes,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who had been a vocal supporter of the idea. “If there is a trade-off, there is a trade-off. That is the politics of it.”
One of the biggest winners was Biden, the former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, who arrived at the Capitol on Friday in an effort to scuttle Pelosi’s first two compromises before the deal was struck.
By the time Biden left an hour later, he seemed to have bought allies with his willingness to compromise, ultimately steering eight Republicans to the centrist coalition’s side. Republicans in the coalition had been pressing for $2.5 billion in border funding but felt Biden went much further than they did.
Biden’s influence was evident right from the beginning, when he cut an early deal to add $800 million to Border Patrol funding by making a highly contested change to how to calculate how much of the category 1836, used for removal of immigrants who do not present a public safety threat, must be spent.
That proposal quickly forced Democrats to the right, even if Trump had little use for it. Pelosi agreed to attach another $1.3 billion to increase for additional agents and detention beds, but only with a concession that no federal money could be used to build barriers.
The deal met resistance from liberals who were eager to add to funding for early childhood education, road building and a host of other projects. A reluctant group that included some centrist Democrats but no Republicans in the emerging compromise prevailed in attaching $1.6 billion to other programs for border security.
“I was told $1.6 billion would meet the president’s demands. So it has,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the centrist coalition, who has been a long-time opponent of building a wall. “I went to my local firehouse in northern Virginia yesterday, and most of the firefighters said they didn’t think there were any votes on the Hill for a wall. We want to build a wall in the right places, and not at the cost of decimating our infrastructure.”
McCarthy jumped into the fray on Sunday. When Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted an article with criticism of the deal with Democrats, McCarthy fired back at the senator, tagging him in the tweet and saying, “You can write your own check now.”
Yet with a vote coming up for the actual funding bill, conservatives would have to back the leadership move or not vote for the resolution in order to ensure their victory.
Fox News has noted that there has been pressure on some conservatives to back the spending resolution, but that the West Virginia House Democratic leader, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, has been vocal in his opposition.
A spokesman for Rahall said Sunday that the congressman would vote against the legislation if it includes border funding.