WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 14 (UPI) — Donald Trump plans to sign a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open, but will declare a national emergency over border security, the White House said Thursday.
The announcement came minutes after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told his fellow senators of the president’s plan.
“President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
The Senate and House are expected to vote on the spending bill Thursday afternoon and evening before sending it to Trump’s desk for a final signature.
“I’ve just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump, and he would, I would say to all my colleagues, has indicated that he’s prepared to sign the bill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time. And I’ve indicated to him that I’m going to prepare — I’m going to support the national emergency declaration. So for all of my colleagues, the president will sign the bill. We’ll be voting on it shortly.”
For weeks, Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency so that he can spend money to build a wall or barrier along the southern border without congressional approval. The president sought $5.7 billion in the spending bill to build parts of the wall, but an impasse over that funding shut down the government for 35 days starting in December.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said if Trump declares a national emergency, she’d consider filing a legal challenge.
“That’s an option and we will review our options. But it’s important to note that when the President declares this emergency, first of all it’s not an emergency what’s happening at the border – It’s a humanitarian challenge to us … putting that aside, just in terms of the President making an end run around Congress. Here he said, let us respect what the committee will do and then walks away from it. The President is doing an end run around Congress.”
Sanders told reporters the White House is “very prepared” for legal challenges but that she doesn’t think there should be any. She said there will more details about the national emergency announced later Thursday.
The new bipartisan bill — which must be passed by Friday in order to avert another shutdown — includes $1.38 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, about one-fifth the amount Trump requested.
Democrats have repeatedly said they won’t allocate that much, and projections estimate the final tally on a full border wall could cost $25 billion.Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, filed the 1,159-page bill late Wednesday. It will keep money in federal coffers until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Trump’s aides indicated earlier this week that he’s likely to sign the new spending bill even without the the $5.7 billion he sought.
“We cannot repeat the disastrous government shutdown, so it is incumbent on Congress to come together to responsibly fund our government. This legislation represents a bipartisan compromise and will keep our government open while funding key priorities,” Lowey said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon. Then it goes to the House for a vote Thursday evening, then to Trump for signing.
“If some choose not to sign it, that’s their prerogative,” Lowey said.
The $1.38 billion is allocated for the construction of about 55 miles of a physical barrier along the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, according to a summary of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The Department of Homeland Security will receive $49.4 billion in discretionary funding, $2 billion more than Trump requested and, along with the 55-mile barrier, includes $100 million for “new border security technology,” $113 million for “additional air and marine assets,” and $77 million for “opioid equipment and staffing for use at international mail and express consignment facilities,” the summary said.
It does not include funding for new Border Patrol agents.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he thinks Trump will sign off on it.
“My impression is he’s likely to sign it but then to issue some sort of executive order to supplement those funds with other funds that Congress has already authorized him to tap,” he said.
The bill would also prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from preventing “a member of Congress from entering any facility that is used to detain or otherwise house children,” the summary said.
A pair of Democratic senators were denied access last summer to migrant processing facilities.
Concerning the treatment of migrant and asylum-seeking families who enter America, a second, longer explanatory summary of the bill says it directs Homeland Security to ensure “that separated family units are reunited and transferred together” before either being deported or transferred to an immigration center.
It also prohibits Homeland Security from placing pregnant women in restraints and provides oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of detainees.