GOP senators say border deal should be reached regardless of Trump

GOP senators say border deal should be reached regardless of Trump
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Top Senate Republicans said Tuesday that the bipartisan conference committee should work to get a deal on the border wall regardless of whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpClinton and Ocasio-Cortez joke about Kushner's alleged use of WhatsApp Missouri Gov. declares state of emergency amid severe flooding Swalwell on Hicks testimony: 'She's going to have to tell us who she lied for' in Trump admin MORE eventually signs off on it.

“Obviously it would be great if the president decided to sign the bill,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump keeps up attacks on 'horrible' McCain, despite calls from GOP, veterans Rock the Vote President says Dem reform bill 'shines a light' on dark money The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans MORE (R-Ky.).

“I think we don’t yet know what his view is on this. But I think the conferees ought to reach an agreement and then we'll hope that the president finds it worth signing,” he said.

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The Senate GOP leader added that he had been told negotiators were having “useful” talks, saying, “We pray for them each night and hope for the best.”

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCongress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law MORE (R-S.D.) added that he didn't want to guarantee the president would back an agreement that comes out of the conference committee, but expressed hope that he would. 

“I just think if there's a good faith effort to find the common ground to define what a physical structure, a physical barrier, might be or look like and some flexibility on whatever the number is, there's a deal,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said.

“I hope if there’s a deal struck by the conference, the president would be willing to sign it,” Thune said. 

The comments from the Senate's top two Republicans come hours before Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address, where he’s hinted that he could lay out his plans for constructing his desired U.S.-Mexico border wall with an emergency declaration. 

A committee of 17 lawmakers has until Feb. 15 to work out a deal that would break the months-long stalemate over the wall and prevent a second partial shutdown — and possibly keep Trump from declaring a national emergency. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRisk-averse Republicans are failing the republic Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the conference committee and GOP leadership, hedged when asked if they would announce a deal before they had buy-in from the White House.

The remarks from McConnell and Thune represent a shift.

Late last year, Republicans largely demanded that any agreement be able to garner the president's signature in order to get a vote. 

The Senate easily passed a continuing resolution in December only for Trump to catch them flat-footed when he said he would not support it because it did not include extra money for the border wall. Republicans since then have seemed wary of getting ahead of Trump.

Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for the wall; Democrats have rejected “wall” funding but signaled some openness to fencing or other physical barriers. Members of the conference committee will be briefed on Wednesday by border officials.