Tester to serve on panel charged with finding solution to border security impasse

Hours after President Donald Trump announced a deal on Friday to reopen the federal government on a short-term basis without $5.7 billion for a border wall, Sen. Jon Tester said he’ll serve on a panel of lawmakers charged with working out a solution.

Without that solution, Trump could either shut the government down again on Feb. 15 or declare a national emergency, potentially bypassing Congress altogether.

“For the first time in 35 days, 800,000 federal workers and their families can breathe a sigh of relief,” Tester said in a statement Friday. “But the deal struck today is only a short-term fix to this irresponsible government shutdown.”

Tester, a Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, will help lead a small bipartisan group of lawmakers tasked with crafting border security legislation after the Senate reached a deal Friday to end the shutdown.

Tester said the panel includes Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Roy Blunt of Missouri.

“Now we’ve got to work together to craft a long-term bipartisan solution that actually protects our communities and doesn’t undermine American workers,” Tester said.

Tester voted with Democrats on Thursday to reopen the government without funding for a wall while negotiations for a solution to the impasse took place. Six Republicans joined Democrats in the vote, though the measure failed.

The Senate also failed to pass an alternative measure Thursday that would have funded the $5.7 billion wall, offered immigration reforms and open the government. Tester voted against that measure, though Sen. Steve Daines supported it.

Tester helped write earlier legislation to provide more than $21 billion for border security and immigration enforcement for fiscal year 2019. He said the legislation was supported unanimously by Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On Friday, Daines Tweeted his approval of Trump’s plan to reopen government and appoint a panel to resolve the impasse, but said little more.

“Both sides need to continue to negotiate and compromise in good faith so we can have a permanent & real solution to keep the government open and secure our borders,” he Tweeted.