President Donald Trump will sign spending legislation to prevent a government shutdown while declaring a national emergency to try to build his proposed border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.
“He’s prepared to sign the bill, he will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time,” the Kentucky Republican said as the chamber prepared to vote on a measure to keep the government open past a midnight Friday deadline.
If Trump follows through, lawmakers and the White House would dodge their second partial shutdown since December, sparing about 800,000 federal workers from more financial pain. But the emergency declaration would quickly spark lawsuits challenging the president’s authority, creating yet another fight over his key campaign promise.
The emergency declaration would allow Trump to redirect funds from other parts of the government to the project without congressional approval. The move could in part assuage conservative critics who argued the president should not accept the latest congressional plan, which denied him the funding he demanded for the border barrier. He had threatened the action for weeks, splitting the GOP caucus as some Republicans argued it would set a dangerous precedent.
McConnell said he “indicated to [Trump] that I am going to support the national emergency declaration.” Democratic leaders have warned Trump against the action.
“I think declaring a national emergency where this is no national emergency is not good for the president to do and is not good as a precedent,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told MSNBC shortly after McConnell spoke.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment on whether Trump would do what McConnell said. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the California Democrat would hold a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Both Republicans and Democrats showed concerns about the spending plan, but congressional leaders from both parties backed it. The GOP appeared to wait for Trump’s support Thursday before voting, as the president waffled on whether to support the agreement.
The measure would put about $1.4 billion toward physical border barriers. But it would specifically not allow construction of new wall prototypes proposed by Trump. The president has claimed the wall will still get built, even as Congress dealt him his latest defeat on one of his signature campaign issues.
Senate Republicans looked eager to avoid the second partial government shutdown since December. Without a new spending plan, funding for nine U.S. departments will lapse at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday.
Despite Congress’ latest blow to his border wall plans, Trump has insisteed he will build the structure regardless. He argues he has the authority to allocate funds from other parts of the government to construct it.
He also said he will still consider declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress.
“The bottom line is on the wall we’re building the wall and we’re using other methods other than this and in addition to this,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
Funding for about a quarter of the government lapsed for 35 days during December and January. About 800,000 federal employees, furloughed or working without pay, missed two paychecks during the closure. Another shutdown threatens more financial hardship for those workers.
Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to construct the wall, and Democrats’ refusal to yield to him, led to the earlier shutdown. In December, Trump said he would “take the mantle” for the shutdown. Most Americans eventually did blame him for it, according to polls.