There’s light at the end of the tunnel

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As I See It

By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

In every negotiation, there are two steps to comply with. One, the panel members must have to agree first on a compromise deal before they can go to the next step. This step has been an impasse… a bottleneck for many days now nearing the February 15 deadline but apparently, there seem to be a sign of having one. The second step is the consequence of the first as to whoever approves it or agrees with it. In this case, the second step concerns US President Donald Trump as to whether he approves or disapproves of the compromise deal to be sent to his table by February 15.

So, okay… it seems that the lawmakers that comprise the Group of 17 are reaching an agreement on the border wall funding which is the crux of the matter during the temporary 35-day government shutdown, according to the analysis of authors Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram of the Associated Press. The authors said, “Congressional negotiators reached agreement Monday night to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, overcoming a late-stage hang-up over immigration enforcement issues that had threatened to scuttle the talks.”

I agree with the authors because if this is true, the lawmakers in the negotiating panel were able to hurdle the first step. They will be ready to go to the next step, which is sending the compromise bill to the president and the latter to either sign or don’t sign it.

According to the analysis, “the Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown,” a message they want to convey to the American people and probably to President Trump. “They tentatively agreed to far less money for President Donald Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4 billion, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30,” the authors said, although the details of the agreement are not yet finalized and will be announced later.

This is a giant step in the negotiation! They agreed to put in additional money, not for a wall under the definition of Trump, but enhanced fencing (metal slats not concrete wall) amounting to $1.375 B plus additional funding for new technologies such as advanced screening at border entry point, humanitarian aid sought by Democrats, and additional customs officers to man the border. If approximates the definition of a wall by Trump and it’s just a matter of calling the wall as enhanced fence which is acceptable to all negotiators for the meantime.

With this agreement, however, the Democrats put in a new item in the negotiation process placing a cap in the number of ICE detention beds, not the path for citizenship for Dreamers and TPS beneficiaries which they have been clamoring for initially in exchange of the border wall. I think this must be a new line of controversy, especially with Trump, who thinks that the Democrats are just stalling the negotiations by thinking of things to justify what they want, a move that may back up his initial comment that the negotiation is just “a waste of time”. But, anyway, this is not bothering the lawmakers at this time as they agree in principle to tackle the first step.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican negotiator on a conference committee trying to keep government running past February 15, seem to be in agreement with them too. He said Thursday that he expects a deal on border security funding by Monday. Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, made the comments after briefing President Donald Trump on the talks. “The president urged me to get to yes,” Shelby told reporters, according to Bloomberg. “He would like us to conclude our bill in a positive way for the American people,” he continued. The tone of Shelby’s talk with the president shows that the latter must have softened his stand on the wall which may pave the way for a possible signing of the compromise bill.

Also, while Democrats have more leverage into the talks… observers see they also showed flexibility in hopes of winning Trump’s signature. After yielding on border barriers, Democrats focused on reducing funding for detention beds to curb what they see as unnecessarily harsh enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Bloomberg report said.

These are positive signs emanating from both parties for possible resolution of the long-standing controversy.

Shelby also said the Democrats dropped the demand of placing a cap in the number of ICE detention beds in the Monday round of talks which improved tremendously the mood of the negotiations. This is another break in the negotiation which is going on.

“We can call it anything. We’ll call it barriers, we’ll call it whatever they want,” Trump said. “But now it turns out not only don’t they want to give us money for a wall, they don’t want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers.” This somehow set the tone that Trump may be amenable to having fences that resembles a wall, which is a good sign in the negotiations. This will also give a clue to the lawmakers on what Trump expects to happen.

In fact, as support in his own party, Trump agreed to end the shutdown that hit 35 days, to sign the bill into law without getting money for the wall. We are expecting the same gesture from the President for him to sign a compromise bill to be sent to his table on February 15 to finally end the problem.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation,” she said she “could support a solution to the showdown that added some Normandy fencing — large ‘X’ shaped barriers — on the border. If the President wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall”.

Lawmakers were anticipating that Trump will agree funding for a refurbished fence, instead of a wall in the real sense of the word, which was the Pelosi stand on the matter. This will give the negotiation panel a working parameter in coming out with the compromise bill.

Besides, polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the wall, and that most people were also against the shutdown… which Trump may consider factors in changing his position.

When all these said and done, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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