US President Donald Trump to Sign Wall Funding Deal, Declare National Emergency

Spencer Underwood
February 15, 2019

"Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so the government doesn't shut down, " senator Charles Grassley said after a chaplain opened Thursday's Senate session.

Funding is due to expire for a range of federal agencies on Friday.

The funding deal, reached by a bipartisan Congressional conference committee earlier this week, provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the border.

If an emergency can be manufactured over border security when illegal border crossings are near a 20-year low, as measured by Border Patrol arrests, then it's a snap to make the case for an emergency over gun deaths, which are near a 20-year high. With Democrats refusing to budge, slamming the wall as "immoral" and "ineffective", the United States entered a record-breaking government shutdown and risked another one if Trump refused to sign the bill by Saturday. It will be taken up by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-led Senate before going to Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that she may file a legal challenge and is in the process of reviewing her options.

The Senate is now voting on the spending bill, which is expected to go to the House of Representatives by this evening.

A source familiar with the situation said that the White House had identified $2.7 billion in funds previously provided by Congress that could be redirected to barrier funding as part of a national emergency.

Democrats say there is no border crisis and Trump would be using a declaration simply to sidestep Congress.

Asked if the White House is prepared for legal challenges, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday, "We're very prepared, but there shouldn't be [legal challenges]".

FILE PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as the President holds a meeting with Republican House and Senate leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. September 5, 2018.

The money is immediately available for use by the president, the aides said, but it will take some time to for him to spend it. Building a wall across the southern border will require lengthy negotiations with private landowners, they noted.

Romney, too, said he would reserve judgment on potential executive action by the president until he can fully evaluate it, "but as I've said, I do not believe declaring a national emergency is the right approach".

"The reason for that is as with so much else Trump, what's he's doing would really smash through another constitutional guard rail in the sense that he would be explicitly doing an end run around Congress".

Congressional aides said House Democrats would take various steps to try to block Trump's emergency, possibly including a lawsuit. The legislation also includes more funding for some kind of barrier at the border. "I think most of us fully understand there is no emergency, " he said.

"Whether the president has the authority or not, it sets a risky precedent and places America on a path that we will regret", he said.

Many subsequent emergency declarations suspended assets, trade or other transactions with nations ranging from Libya to Panama, though most have lapsed after regime changes in those countries, according to the center.

With polls showing the public blamed him and GOP lawmakers, Trump folded on January 25 without getting any of the wall funds.

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