Congress OKs smaller border deal; Trump will sign, declare state of emergency
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress lopsidedly approved a border security compromise Thursday that would avert a second painful government shutdown. However, a new confrontation was ignited over President Donald Trump's plan to bypass lawmakers and declare a national emergency to siphon billions from other federal coffers to cover the rest of his wall on the southern border.
Money in the bill for border barriers, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the 200-plus miles he wanted. The White House said he'd sign the legislation and act unilaterally to get the additional funding, prompting immediate condemnation from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money.
The uproar over Trump's next move cast an uncertain shadow over what had been a rare display of bipartisanship to end the grinding battle between the White House and lawmakers.
The Senate passed the legislation 83-16, with both parties solidly on board. The House followed with a 300-128 tally, with Trump's signature planned Friday.
Democrats overwhelmingly backed the legislation, with only 19 — most of whom were Hispanic — opposed. Just over half of Republicans voted "no."
Both margins were above the two-thirds majorities needed to override presidential vetoes, should Trump decide not to sign the bill.
Lawmakers expressed relief over the agreement averting a fresh closure of federal agencies just three weeks after a record-setting 35-day partial shutdown drew an unambiguous thumbs-down from the public. In announcing that Trump would sign the accord, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also said he'd take "other executive action, including a national emergency,"
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 promised for years.
"Congress will defend our constitutional authorities," they said. 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.
Democratic state attorneys general said they would consider legal action to block Trump. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the president on Twitter "we'll see you in court" if he makes the declaration.
Despite widespread opposition in Congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Trump is under pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid looking like he's surrendered in his wall battle.