Graham: Trump open-minded about potential compromise with Democrats on border security funding

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WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters that President Donald Trump is open to a compromise with Democrats that includes $5 billion for border security “in areas that make sense” in exchange for legislative changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and immigrants with temporary protected status, or TPS.

“(The) President didn’t commit but I think he’s very open minded,” Graham said, adding that Trump’s first response to the plan was describing it as “interesting.”

Graham told reporters he presented Trump with the idea for a “potential breakthrough” on budget talks during their two-hour lunch at the White House on Sunday. Graham said it would involve tying wall funding to the BRIDGE Act, which he and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin wrote.

“I know there’s some Democrats out there who would be willing to provide money for wall border security if we could deal with the DACA population and TPS people, and hopefully we can get some serious discussions started,” Graham told reporters at the White House.

Graham said he pitched Trump on a possible deal “that would include around $5 billion for border security slash wall slash fencing — whatever you want to call it, in areas that make sense — and deal with another problem that’s looming.”

“I think the President’s eventually going to win his court case regarding DACA and the President has put on the table several times relief for the DACA population. Since we’re talking about $5 billion for border security, not $25 billion, we’re probably going to have to scale things back,” Graham said.

When asked by CNN whether a pathway to citizenship for the DACA population would be on the table in discussions, Graham said: “Not for $5 billion. I’m not willing to do that.”

“The deal we had in February — it’s not going to be replicated,” Graham said. “We’re not going to do $25 billion and a DREAM Act with a pathway to citizenship. But I do think we can do $5 billion for the BRIDGE Act, which would give the same population work permits.”

Trump has told officials and lawmakers he won’t sign a bill that comes to his desk with only $1.3 billion allotted for border security, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

A White House official said Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer did not immediately reject the offer the White House made last Saturday night, which included more than $1.3 billion but less than the $5 billion Trump initially wanted. But during a call this week, Schumer informed the White House that they do not expect to accept or counteroffer the White House’s proposal, a second official added. A Schumer spokesperson provided this readout of that meeting: “The Vice President came in for a discussion and made an offer. Unfortunately, we’re still very far apart.”

A Schumer spokesperson said Thursday that the White House and Democrats were “still very far apart,” but the spokesperson said Schumer made it clear at the time of last Satuday’s meeting Democrats would not accept the offer.

“Schumer made clear to the Vice President, in private after their Saturday meeting, that the offer would not pass the Senate, and told the Vice President that we would not consider any offer the President has not publicly endorsed, given that the President has changed his position so many times,” spokesman Justin Goodman said in a statement.

Asked on Sunday if the President will sign or veto a bill that Democrats pass, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that “it depends what’s in it,” but added that Trump is “ready to negotiate.”

“He wants to make a deal on border security. Where are they now? Nancy Pelosi is in Hawaii,” Conway said. “And negotiation by definition has to include both sides. He’s in the — he’s in the White House. He’s in Washington ready to negotiate.

“The President likes the $5.6 billion that was in the House package,” Conway said. “His incoming acting chief of staff and his vice president have offered less than that as a compromise. We have heard nothing in return.”

As far as the type of border security Trump is looking to get funded in a deal goes, Conway did not offer specifics but told Bash that “it’s anything — it’s all of the above.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly insisted that Mexico would fund the wall. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell said he will not bring a vote to the floor unless the President has endorsed it.

“We pushed the pause button,” McConnell said the day the government was scheduled to partially close, “until the President, from whom we will need a signature, and Senate Democrats, from whom we will need votes, reach an agreement.”

Earlier Sunday, Graham told Bash on the same program that he hoped to end the shutdown by offering Democrats incentives to get them to vote for wall funding.

“Democrats are not going to give us any money for a wall, border security, without getting something themselves,” Graham said.

Trump’s outgoing chief of staff John Kelly, who has been largely uninvolved in the shutdown negotiations, said in an interview published Sunday that the wall Trump is hammering Democrats over is not actually a concrete wall and hasn’t been since the early days of the administration.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the Los Angeles Times. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

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