After 15 days of deliberations and debate since the record-long federal government shutdown, lawmakers sent President Trump a package bill which would fund the government and avert a shutdown deadline at 11:59 pm on Friday.
The president initially expressed hesitations about signing the bill as it only includes $1.3 billion for the construction of a new border wall. The bill itself also describes that the money can only go towards the construction of fencing or steel slats, but not a concrete wall.
Trump also said he was discouraged by a provision which would reduce the number of beds US Immigration and Customs Enforcement have to detain those in the country illegally. Should ICE facilities reach their capacity, they would be unable to arrest and detain others without first releasing some illegal immigrants back into local communities.
As ABC News reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell surprisingly announced that Trump told him he would sign the bill into law anyway. The decision, however, came with a major caveat:
In a surprise development Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor that President Donald Trump told him he would sign a border security funding bill that would avert a government shutdown, but also would declare a national emergency in order to get more funding for his proposed border wall.
As ABC News reports, the funding bill ended up passing the Senate bill by a vote of 83 to 16 and was sent off to the House for a vote later on Thursday. The House later passed the bill with a final vote of 300 to 128. Each chamber had Democrats and Republicans vote in favor of its passage.
Leading people to speculate what could happen next…
As USA Today reports, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Trump’s intention to sign the funding bill into law while at the same time declaring a national emergency for additional border funding.
Declaring a national emergency would free up to $8 billion (or more) for the president to use on the border wall.
From USA Today:
The president is expected to sign a funding bill, which just passed in the Senate, that will provide $1.375 billion for a 55-mile border barrier – much less than the $5.7 billion that Trump has demanded for a wall along the southern border. After signing the measure he will declare a national emergency to get more funding for a wall, the White House said.
“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 in a statement.
The possibility of Trump declaring an emergency, something he’s hinted at for more than a month, will certainly spur immediate legal challenges.
According to the report, some lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are railing against the declaration while some Republicans are favoring it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats claim there is no current immigration crisis, so the declaration is not needed. They are also arguing that the action could set a dangerous precedent for future presidents:
Republicans “should have some dismay to the door that they are opening, the threshold they are crossing,” Pelosi said.
“The precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans and of course we will respond accordingly,” she added.
She continued: “Just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer similarly said on the Senate floor: “If President Trump decides to go forward with a disaster declaration, he’ll be making a tremendous mistake.”
According to USA Today, Republicans are torn on the issue as some of them have expressed a national emergency declaration is a dangerous step to take while others claim the state of the immigration system warrant such a decision:
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she concerned about use the declaration to repurpose billions of dollars that Congress has already appropriated.
She said it “strikes me as undermining the appropriations process, the will of Congress and of being of dubious constitutionality.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. also said he had concerns that Trump would be violating the Constitution and setting up a bad precedent.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” he said in a statement. “Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal. I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement. But I am skeptical it will be something I can support.”
Other Republicans, however, seemed to be sticking by the president and advocating for the action.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said other presidents have used the power and he thinks Trump is “probably on pretty solid ground.”
“If I were the president, I’m not, I would do what I thought was best regardless of what – as long as I had the legal authority,” he said.
“Still, some Republicans stood by the president’s decision. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they will support the president’s decision,” ABC News adds.
Besides setting a precedent for future presidents, the decision is almost certain to be contested legally. The legal fight could carry for months or further, the Justice Department warned on Thursday.
“The Justice Department has warned the White House a national emergency declaration is nearly certain to be blocked by the courts on, at least, a temporary basis, preventing the immediate implementation of the president’s plan to circumvent Congress and build the wall using his executive powers,” ABC News also reports.
According to the report, the Trump administration may pursue the legal fight confident that they could win an appealing argument.