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Lawmakers rush to resolve last-minute snags in spending bill as shutdown looms

By Erica Werner , Erica Werner Congressional reporter focusing on economic policy Email Bio Follow John Wagner and John Wagner National reporter leading The Post’s breaking political news team Email Bio Follow Robert Costa Robert Costa National political reporter covering the White House, Congress and campaigns Email Bio Follow February 13 at 10:38 AM Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

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While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

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Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

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[ Lawmakers line up behind bipartisan border deal to avert shutdown, as Trump signals he may sign it ]

There was also concern brewing among some liberal Democrats over concessions made during congressional negotiations related to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other issues, though it was unclear how widespread that opposition would become

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that she was confident lawmakers could come to terms on the outstanding issues

President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday at the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) “We have to. We have to. I think we’re in a pretty good place,” Pelosi said

A White House official told The Washington Post on Wednesday morning that Trump sees signing the legislation, if passed by Congress, as the way to avoid another shutdown

But Trump would also likely pursue an executive order to reallocate additional federal funds to barrier projects, the official said, in addition to signing legislation. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, spoke on the condition of anonymity

The compromise, which bipartisan negotiators struck late Monday after reviving stalled talks, includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new fences along the border, short of the $5.7 billion Trump had sought for 234 miles of steel walls

The president wants to see what the final package looks like, and he’ll make a decision at that point,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday

Sanders said that the White House is looking “at every option possible” to find additional funding for the president’s marquee campaign promise of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border

“He’s okay because he’s going to get the job done, no matter what,” said Sanders during an appearance on the Fox News Channel. “You can rest assured, the president promised he’s going to build the wall, and he’s going to deliver.”

Sanders later told reporters at the White House that Democrats would be to blame if there is another shutdown

“If it happens again, it will be because the Democrats completely failed to do their job,” she asserted

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic caucus, told reporters Wednesday morning that he expects a House vote on the legislation “tomorrow afternoon or thereafter” and predicted “the overwhelming majority” of House Democrats would support it

If a bill is not signed by Trump by midnight Friday, another partial government shutdown will ensue

Among the outstanding issues in the sweeping legislation is a push by some Democrats to add language that would provide back pay to federal contractors. Some 800,000 federal workers, and tens of thousands of contractors, went without pay during the 35-day shutdown, and crucial services at airports, food inspection sites, the Internal Revenue Service and elsewhere were jeopardized. Under a law signed by Trump, workers but not contractors are receiving back pay

“Thousands of federal contractors have not been reimbursed from the 35-day shutdown,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “This issue is hanging in the balance . . . It’s just not fair.”

[ Violence Against Women Act extended in bill that reopened government ]

The dispute over the Violence Against Women Act centered on whether to use the spending bill to extend it. Some Democrats fear that would remove the impetus to pass a broader stand-alone bill in the works. Funding for the legislation is scheduled to expire Friday

During remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called efforts to pass a stand-alone bill a “cynical ploy by Democratic colleagues” and advocated including a seven-month extension in the spending bill

Another flash point was the question of how many detention beds can be maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The deal reached Monday omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on immigrants detained within the United States — as opposed to at the border. At the same time, it sets funding for the average number of detention beds maintained by ICE at 45,274, an increase from levels funded in the 2018 budget

[ Why immigration detention beds became a new issue in Trump border wall fight ]

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) was among the liberal Democrats voicing disapproval of those provisions

“We actually ended up with more appropriated beds,” she said, adding that she is inclined to oppose the bill, but might have to “hold her nose” and vote for it

Jayapal added that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not trying to derail the legislation

“We’re not trying to kill this bill,” she said

During a Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Pelosi and Lowey sought to build support for the legislation by talking up provisions favorable to Democrats and emphasizing Trump didn’t get the wall funding he wanted, according to people in the room

Coming out of the meeting, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.) said he would support the legislation and predicted it would pass with just enough votes from Republicans and Democrats

Asked about opposition from liberal Democrats, Meeks said: “When you strike a deal, you get some things that you want, and you get some things that you don’t like. A majority of our members will vote for it.”

In voicing his support for the bill, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) emphasized what it doesn’t include

“We accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” he said. “We’re not going to get a wall from sea to shining sea.”

Paul Kane, Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade contributed to this article.