In background briefings on the deal, House Democratic aides described the language as a “glide path” from the current level of 49,000 detention beds back down to Obama-era levels of 35,000 or lower.
But a summary of the provisions drafted by Republican staffers on the Senate Appropriations Committee presents a different picture, and one that could be a victory for the White House in an otherwise drab and wall-free deal. The document, provided by an aide to a senator who was reviewing the compromise, places the average number of beds funded under the deal at a much higher number — 45,274, including 2,500 slots for families.
And that number could rise to as many as 58,500 beds, Republican aides claimed in their internal communications. That is because federal Cabinet departments have some latitude in how they use funds.
Republicans put the deal in the best light as they sought the president’s approval.
“The notion that Congress shouldn’t spend more than one dollar on new border barriers, and the idea that we should impose a hard, statutory cap on ICE detainees in the interior of the country which would require the release of criminals into the United States” were rejected, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Democrats downplayed the Republican notion that the deal gave expansive leeway to the Department of Homeland Security to move funding around to increase detention facilities.
“The only way the Trump administration will be able to ratchet up the number of detention beds is if they choose to steal funding that Congress has directed to other D.H.S. components for important Homeland Security activities,” said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee chairwoman, Nita M. Lowey of New York. “Transferring funds away from national security is a reckless course that will make the country less safe.”
By midmorning, Mr. Trump was said to be weighing his options about how to proceed with the deal the conference committee came up with. One person familiar with his thinking described him as “frustrated” by months of Republicans not doing what he hoped to see done at the border.