US President Donald Trump will sign a border security bill to avert another government shutdown, but also declare a national emergency to try to obtain funds for his promised US-Mexico border wall, the White House has confirmed.
In his attempt to bypass Congress to get money that has so far been denied for his wall along the US-Mexico border, Mr Trump risks triggering a swift court challenge from Democrats on constitutional grounds.
The top Democrat in Congress immediately denounced the President’s move. Asked by reporters whether she would file a legal challenge to the emergency declaration, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “I may, that’s an option.”
The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, accused Mr Trump of a “gross abuse of the power of the presidency”.
But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the move from Mr Trump was proof of the President honouring his election promises.
“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,” Ms Sanders said.
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country.”
The bipartisan compromise federal spending legislation, passed by the Republican-led Senate before going to the Democratic-led House of Representatives for final congressional approval, would provide more than $300 billion to fund the Department of Homeland Security and a range of other agencies through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Funding for those agencies is due to expire on Friday (local time), which would trigger another partial federal shutdown on Saturday morning if Congress and Mr Trump do not act quickly.
The Trump administration has suggested that it could use national emergency powers to redirect money already committed by Congress toward paying for Mr Trump’s wall.
Ms Pelosi accused Mr Trump of doing “an end-run” around Congress and around the Constitution’s separation of powers that gives Congress, not the President, such authority as federal spending and declaring war.
“It’s not an emergency, what’s happening at the border. It’s a humanitarian challenge to us,” Ms Pelosi said.
“If the President can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency — an illusion that he wants to convey — just think of what a President with different values can present to the American people.”
Wall funding to fall short of Trump’s demands
Congress is expected later to approve the bill, which does not contain the money Mr Trump demanded for the wall but does contain money for other border security measures.
Mr Trump triggered a 35-day-long shutdown of about a quarter of the Federal Governmentwith his December demand for $US5.7 billion to help build a portion of the wall.
In denying him that money, Congress has blocked Mr Trump from carrying through on one of his key 2016 campaign pledges.
The border bill would provide $US1.37 billion ($1.93 billion) in new money to help build 88.5 kilometres of new physical barriers on the border. It is the same level of funding Congress appropriated for border security measures last year, including barriers but not concrete walls.
Earlier, Mr Schumer called the spending legislation agreement a “reasonable compromise”.
“It does not fund the President’s wall, but it does support smart border security initiatives that both parties have always supported … Most importantly, it will keep our government open,” Mr Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The legislation would also fund the Justice Department, Commerce Department, State Department, Department of Agriculture, Internal Revenue Service and others, covering roughly 800,000 federal workers.
Failure to enact the bill would shutter many programs, from national parks maintenance and air traffic controller training programs to the collection and publication of important data for financial markets, for the second time this year.