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McCarthy: 'Good for the Entire Country' to Ensure Trump Likes Border Agreement Before Vote

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy press conference

WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Republicans would need to "know where the president stands before we vote on these bills" that could include far less border funding than President Trump seeks, because otherwise "why put the country through something like that."

Trump has sought $5.7 billion for a border wall, which he then said could be steel fencing, but GOPs on the conference committee negotiating an agreement were hoping to get border barrier funding "north" of $2 billion, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) told reporters today.

Democrats have approved recent funding for border barriers as long as those barriers don't include a concrete wall.

McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill today that Congress still has the "power to come to an agreement where I think the president would not agree to a national emergency" in a quest to secure border funding. "I think that's what the president said in the State of the Union. Do your job. You have the ability to do it legislatively. The president said, OK, I'll open up government because you said you'll discuss it once it's open."

"So, now's our opportunity and window. But the president also said he has a responsibility for the safety of all Americans. And I don't think anybody questions his legal authority to declare a national emergency," McCarthy added. "So, he's giving us the opportunity that he does not have to go there, that we can solve this legislatively. I think the question about whether he does it or not is the outcome in the work that we achieve in this. So, I think, if the Democrats do nothing, he still has to do his job to protect us but, yes, he could do that."

"If you did that, there would be -- you could bring a vote up for a bill. The president would have to sign or veto that; I don't see any way that that would get overridden if it was vetoed in any shape or form. So, I think it's really on the members in the House and the Senate to solve this problem legislatively and not put the president in a position to have to do that."

McCarthy, pressed on whether his caucus needs Trump's blessing, noted how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "been very clear that he doesn't want to move anything, from the very beginning, if it's not going to become law."

"And I think we're all in this negotiation, in the process. The president took the speaker at her word that, if he opened up government, she would be willing to work on these other issues. The question's still out there, will she do that?" he said. "So, I think it's good for the entire country that whatever we pass becomes law so we're not back into the situation before."