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House GOP leaders hold off on backing border deal

Top Republican leaders in the House are waiting to see the final language of the border security funding deal before weighing in on the measure.

WASHINGTON — Top Republican leaders in the House said Wednesday morning that they’re not yet ready to endorse a border security funding deal reached by negotiators that would prevent another partial government shutdown.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would support the agreement if the final legislative text — which has not yet been released — reflects the overarching framework.

McCarthy, at his weekly news conference on Wednesday, asked if the deal was "a down payment" on the wall on the southern border sought by President Donald Trump.

"If the language comes out the way the structure is told to me, I would support this," he said, "but I want to make sure I read the language and make sure we are giving the president the down payment he needs while he still has the tools to finish the job."

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who’s more closely aligned with the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he would first need to see the full text of the bill, which lawmakers expect to land later Wednesday.

"I haven’t seen the language. I want to see the final deal," Scalise said when asked if he intends to vote for it.

The two GOP leaders may also be waiting to hear explicitly from Trump that he supports the deal, which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will vote on late Thursday night.

Trump is expected to sign the legislation to avoid a second shutdown, three sources familiar with his thinking told NBC News on Wednesday, but nothing is set in stone. Those sources include two Republicans who have spoken with the president and an administration official close to the process. All cautioned that the legislative text has still not been finalized.

Democrats could pass the deal without Republican votes, but McCarthy and Scalise could easily influence the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared to express support for the agreement in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It’s time to get this done,” he said.

“It goes without saying that neither side is getting everything it wants. That’s the way it goes in divided government. If the text of the bill reflects the principles agreed to on Monday, it won’t be a perfect deal — but it will be a good deal,” McConnell said.

Democrats have said they are largely satisfied with the parameters of the deal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California briefly told reporters that the deal is a win for the American people. Following a closed-door meeting with the House Democratic Caucus, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, told reporters that an “overwhelming majority” of their members will support the legislation.

“This legislation is a product of trying to find common ground. We made it clear from the beginning that we would not support funding a medieval border wall that would be built from sea to shining sea,” he said.

Some conservatives have bashed the deal, including Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who said on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning that he was “disappointed” with the agreement.

“I mean, Congress should do better. Now, that doesn’t mean that the president won’t sign it to keep the government open and use it as a tool to do that,” Meadows said. “What we have to do is have to encourage the president to take some type of executive action if Congress is not gonna work.”

Meadows told reporters later in the day on Capitol Hill, "I am not voting for it," but that he does believe Trump will sign the measure.

While the agreement in principle was reached Monday night by top appropriators, they're still putting the finishing touches on the measure.

“It’s pretty much wrapped up,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a member of the conference committee that led the negotiations.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters Wednesday that while he believes they’re going to get it done, “believing and doing is two different things.” He added that he told Trump on Tuesday night that the agreement marked a down payment, a multiyear deal to secure the border.

Asked if he thinks Trump understands that he won’t receive everything he wants, Shelby said: “I think he does. I think he understands that, but like every president, or like every senator, would like to have it our way.”