WASHINGTON — Congress steamed toward lopsided approval of a border security compromise Thursday night that would avert a second painful government shutdown but ignite a major new confrontation — this time over President Donald Trump’s plan to bypass lawmakers and declare a national emergency to siphon billions from other federal coffers for his wall on the Mexican boundary.
Wall money in the bill, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump has insisted he must have. The White House said he’d sign the legislation but then act on his own to get the rest, a move sure to bring immediate efforts in court and elsewhere to block him.
The Senate passed the legislation by 83-16 Thursday with both parties solidly on board. House passage was assured late Thursday night, with Trump’s signature coming on Friday.
Lawmakers exuded relief that the agreement had averted a fresh closure of federal agencies just three weeks after a record-setting 35-day partial shutdown that drew an unambiguous thumbs-down from the public.
But in announcing that Trump would sign the accord, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also said he would take “other executive action, including a national emergency,” prompting immediate condemnation from Democrats and threats of legal action from states that might lose federal money.
Pelosi, Schumer Oppose Emergency Declaration
In an unusual joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said such a declaration would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract” from Trump’s failure to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as he’s repeatedly promised for years.
Pelosi and Schumer also said that “Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.” They declined to say whether that meant lawsuits or votes on resolutions to prevent Trump from unilaterally shifting money to wall-building, with aides saying they would wait to see what he does.
Several Democratic state attorneys general said they would look at legal action to block Trump, and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the president on Twitter “we’ll see you in court” if he goes through with the declaration.
Bipartisan Bill Funds 55 Miles of Barricades in Texas
Despite widespread opposition in Congress, including from some Republicans, Trump is under pressure to soothe his conservative base and avoid looking like he’s surrendered in his wall battle with Congress.
The bipartisan pact provides enough money to build just 55 miles of barricades in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley — well short of the billions Trump has demanded to construct 200-plus miles as a down-payment for an even longer and larger wall.