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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 ThuneOn The Money: Congress, White House aim to include debt limit increase in spending deal | McConnell optimistic budget deal near | Carson defends HUD eviction plan | Senate votes to undo tax hike on Gold Star families Congress, White House indicate debt limit increase will be part of spending deal Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group 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 BluntHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Top Republican says Senate unlikely to vote on any election security bills San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology 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.