WASHINGTON – As lawmakers prepared to vote on a package designed to prevent another government shutdown, President Donald Trump sent signals he is willing to sign the deal while seeking other sources of money for his border wall – a move that could land the dispute in federal court.
Hours after saying he was not “thrilled” with the new proposal, Trump on Tuesday struck a more a positive tone about the anti-shutdown plan even though it includes much less wall funding that he has demanded.
Saying he discussed the issues with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Trump said the new congressional plan would be “hooked up with lots of money from other sources.” Trump claimed he could get up to $23 billion for his wall, but did not specify where that money might come from.
In another post, Trump congratulated congressional Republicans who worked on a border security committee created by a budget deal last month that ended the 35-day partial government shutdown.
“I want to thank all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the Radical Left on Border Security,” Trump said. “Not an easy task, but the Wall is being built and will be a great achievement and contributor toward life and safety within our Country!”
On Monday, Congressional negotiators announced an agreement “in principle” that includes $1.375 billion for a border barrier, much less than the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded throughout the year.
While meeting Monday with his Cabinet, Trump said “I’m not happy” with the congressional agreement. He then appeared to reference an idea floated by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other officials: moving existing money from other accounts to fund walls, fences, or other sorts of barriers.
“We’re supplementing things and moving things around,” Trump said, adding that his team is “taking from far less – really, from far less important areas.”
The president also said he wants to avoid another partial government shutdown: “I don’t think you’re going to see a shutdown. I wouldn’t want to go to it, no.”
Trump also retains the option of declaring some sort of a “national emergency,” allowing him in theory to use defense money for wall construction – but also inviting legal challenges from opponents who say the president lacks the legal authority to declare an emergency in this case.
Democrats have vowed to sue or otherwise prevent Trump over any effort to use other money for his wall. They said Congress must specifically appropriate funds for that purpose. Democrats argue the proposed wall is expensive and unnecessary, yet Trump seems willing to divert money from such projects as flood control and drug interdiction.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., has proposed a bill designed to block Trump from using disaster recovery funds to build his border wall.
“Taking recovery funds from disaster victims as ransom for a border wall would be a new low, even for this president,” Garamendi said. “$14 billion in disaster-recovery funds are at risk of being gutted, including $2.5 billion each from civil works projects in California and Puerto Rico.”
Late last year, Trump indicated he would sign a spending plan designed to fund the government past a Dec. 21 deadline. After a torrent of criticism from conservatives who accused him of selling out on the wall, Trump wound up opposing the plan, triggering the shutdown that lasted a record 35 days.
Some of those came conservatives are attacking the current deal, and Trump’s consideration of it.
“Trump talks a good game on the border wall but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” Coulter tweeted. “Call this his ‘Yellow New Deal.'”
In ending the most recent shutdown last month, Trump and the Congress agreed to a three-week spending plan that expires Friday. Parts of the government will shut down again if that plan is not renewed.
As part of that agreement, lawmakers appointed a special committee to develop the new border security package it rolled out this week.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate could vote “in short order” on the tentative proposal and urged Trump to sign it.
Though the agreement doesn’t have everything Trump wants, “I think he’s got a pretty good deal here,” McConnell said. “I hope he’ll decide to sign it.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the agreement represents “a path forward for our country” and would help avoid “another round of fraught negotiations” as lawmakers rush to beat Friday’s fast-approaching deadline.
“Please, Mr. President,” Schumer said. “Sign it, and don’t cause a shutdown.”