Trump to Sign Deal, Declare Emergency 02/15 06:41

Trump to Sign Deal, Declare Emergency  02/15 06:41

   The uproar over Trump's next move cast an uncertain shadow over what had 
been a rare display of bipartisanship to address the grinding battle between 
the White House and lawmakers over border security.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress lopsidedly approved a border security compromise 
that would avert a second painful government shutdown.

   But a new confrontation has been ignited --- this time over President Donald 
Trump's plan to bypass lawmakers and declare a national emergency to siphon 
billions of dollars from other federal coffers for his wall on the Mexican 
boundary.

   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 (322 kilometers) he wanted. The White House said he'd sign the 
legislation but act unilaterally to get more, prompting condemnations from 
Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal 
money or said Trump was abusing his authority.

   The uproar over Trump's next move cast an uncertain shadow over what had 
been a rare display of bipartisanship to address the grinding battle between 
the White House and lawmakers over border security.

   The Senate passed the legislation 83-16 Thursday, with both parties solidly 
aboard. The House followed with a 300-128 tally, with Trump's signature planned 
Friday. Trump will speak Friday morning in the Rose Garden about border 
security, the White House said.

   Trump is expected to announce that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on 
border barriers --- combining the money approved by Congress with funding he 
plans to repurpose through executive actions, including a national emergency, 
said a White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly. The money 
is expected to come from funds targeted for military construction and 
counterdrug efforts.

   House Democrats overwhelmingly backed the legislation, with only 19 --- most 
of whom were Hispanic --- opposed. Just over half of Republicans voted "no."

   Should Trump change his mind, both chambers' margins were above the 
two-thirds majorities needed to override presidential vetoes. Lawmakers, 
however, sometimes rally behind presidents of the same party in such battles.

   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'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'd wait to see what he does.

   Democratic state attorneys general said they'd 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 lost his wall battle.

   The abrupt announcement of Trump's plans came late in an afternoon of 
rumblings that the volatile president --- who'd strongly hinted he'd sign the 
agreement but wasn't definitive --- was shifting toward rejecting it. That 
would have infused fresh chaos into a fight both parties are desperate to leave 
behind, a thought that drove some lawmakers to ask heavenly help.

   "Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so the 
government doesn't shut down," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday's 
Senate session opened.

   Moments before Sanders spoke at the White House, Senate Majority Leader 
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to announce Trump's decisions 
to sign the bill and declare an emergency.

   Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters there were two hours of phone 
calls between McConnell and the White House before there were assurances that 
Trump would sign.

   McConnell argued that the bill delivered victories for Trump over Pelosi. 
These included overcoming her pledge to not fund the wall at all and rejecting 
a Democratic proposal for numerical limits on detaining some immigrants, said a 
Republican speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

   In a surprising development, McConnell said he would support Trump's 
emergency declaration, a turnabout for the Kentucky Republican, who like many 
lawmakers had opposed such action.

   Democrats say there is no border crisis and Trump would be using a 
declaration simply to sidestep Congress. Some Republicans warn that future 
Democratic presidents could use his precedent to force spending on their own 
priorities, like gun control. GOP critics included Maine Sen. Susan Collins, 
who said emergency declarations are for "major natural disasters or 
catastrophic events" and said its use would be of "dubious constitutionality."

   White House staff and congressional Republicans have said that besides an 
emergency, Trump might assert other authorities that could conceivably put him 
within reach of billions of dollars. The money could come from funds targeted 
for military construction, disaster relief and counterdrug efforts.

   Congressional aides say there is $21 billion for military construction that 
Trump could use if he declares a national emergency. By law, the money must be 
used to support U.S. armed forces, they say. The Defense Department declined to 
provide details on available money.

   With many of the Democrats' liberal base voters adamantly against Trump's 
aggressive attempts to curb immigration, four declared presidential hopefuls 
opposed the bill in the Senate: Cory Booker of New Jersey, New York's Kirsten 
Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. 
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota voted for it, as did Vermont independent Bernie 
Sanders, who is expected to join the field soon.

   Notably, the word "wall," the heart of many a chant at Trump campaign events 
and his rallies as president, is absent from the compromise's 1,768-page 
legislative and descriptive language. "Barriers" and "fencing" are the nouns of 
choice, a victory for Democrats eager to deny Trump even a rhetorical victory.

   The agreement, which took bargainers three weeks to strike, would also 
squeeze funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in an attempt 
to pressure the agency to detain fewer immigrants. To the dismay of Democrats, 
however, it would still leave an agency many of them consider abusive holding 
thousands more immigrants than last year.

   The measure contains money for improved surveillance equipment, more customs 
agents and humanitarian aid for detained immigrants. The overall bill also 
provides $330 billion to finance dozens of federal programs for the rest of the 
year, one-fourth of federal agency budgets.

   Trump sparked the last shutdown before Christmas after Democrats snubbed his 
$5.7 billion demand for the wall. The closure denied paychecks to 800,000 
federal workers, hurt contractors and people reliant on government services and 
was loathed by the public.

   With polls showing the public blamed him and GOP lawmakers, Trump folded on 
Jan. 25 without getting any of the wall funds. His capitulation was a political 
fiasco for Republicans and handed Pelosi a victory less than a month after 
Democrats took over the House and confronted Trump with a formidable rival for 
power.

   Trump's descriptions of the wall have fluctuated, at times saying it would 
cover 1,000 miles of the 2,000-mile boundary. Previous administrations 
constructed over 650 miles of barriers.


(KA)

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