Trump to sign bill to avoid shutdown, free $8bn for wall


WASHINTON: President Donald Trump plans to sign a compromise border security measure Friday and then announce that he is using executive action, including declaring a national emergency, to spend $8 billion for border barriers, a White House official said.

The move will end, for now, a bitter standoff with Congress over his signature campaign promise. But it will likely spark a new constitutional dispute over whether the President is overstepping his authority.

The initial news of Trump’s decision came via Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Trump would sign the bill to avoid a shutdown and then declare a national emergency at the same time.

The White House official says Trump is expected to announce that he will use executive action to draw on a variety of administration funding sources to help finance construction of his wall on the border. A national emergency declaration is expected to be one part of that.

The official confirmed the President is set to announce the total amount to be in the range of $8 billion. The official did not specify where all of that money would come from or whether the White House executive action would withstand a court challenge. Democrats are likely to take the matter to court.

A separate White House official said Trump will both sign the funding bill and the paperwork for his executive actions, including the national emergency, at a 10 a.m. Friday event in the White House Rose Garden. That White House official said the funding will break down as:

  • $1.375 billion from the Homeland Security appropriations bill. This money cannot be used to build a wall but can be used to build other types of border barriers due to the way the bill is written
  • $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, which would come from an executive action
  • $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program, which would come from an executive action
  • $3.5 billion from the Defense Department’s military construction budget, which would require a national emergency

The series of events was set in motion earlier Thursday in the Senate floor announcement from McConnell, who said he would drop his opposition to the national emergency move in order to advance the government funding measure.

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell sought to reassure lawmakers of the President’s position before taking a vote on the plan, which falls short of providing the $5 billion in border wall funding Trump had demanded. Senators ultimately voted 82-16 to pass it.

“He has indicated he is prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time,” the Kentucky Republican said.

His announcement came amid questions about the President’s support for the deal, which was struck by a bipartisan panel of negotiators. Aides had said earlier Thursday that they were concerned Trump might reject the spending compromise — a major shift from earlier this week when officials indicated privately that he would.

In agreeing to the funding measure, Trump will accept far less than he wanted for the border barrier, a disappointment for a President who vowed both to build the wall and to bring a mastery of negotiation to the job.

Yet the end of one battle only seemed to be the beginning of another. Instead of haggling over government funding, the fight will turn to a debate over presidential power and possible executive overreach.

McConnell’s abrupt announcement Thursday that Trump would sign the spending package — ahead of any official word from the White House on the President’s position — came after a day of consternation among Republican lawmakers and administration officials about whether Trump would sign the bill.

With anxiety cresting, McConnell phoned the President to insist he sign the measure.

“We talked about the bill. I urged him to sign it. That was my focus,” McConnell told reporters after the Senate passed the bill.

The President’s only public message was a midday tweet indicating he was still mulling the final text of the bill with his team at the White House. Even after McConnell’s announcement, the White House was scrambling to make Trump’s intentions official.

“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,” press secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in a statement 25 minutes after McConnell spoke. “The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country.”