Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency

 
"I had an opportunity to speak with President Trump and he, I would say to all my colleagues, has indicated he's prepared to sign the bill. He also [will] be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time. I indicated I'm going to support the national emergency declaration," McConnell announced shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday. 
The White House affirmed Trump would sign the package minutes later in an emailed statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 
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“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,” Sanders said. 
 
The spokesperson added that Trump is “once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” a remark appeared to be aimed at conservative critics of the agreement who said it does not fulfill Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall along the southern border.
 
McConnell, who reportedly advised Trump not to declare a national emergency, said he will support the president's action.
 
The Senate majority leader said the president will also sign a congressional deal that provides $1.375 billion in funding for border barriers. 
 
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that McConnell privately cautioned Trump not to use national emergency power to fund the wall because it would face opposition from Republicans. 
 
But the GOP leader changed course on Tuesday when he encouraged Trump to sign an omnibus spending package made up of seven spending bills that provided only a fraction of the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded for the border wall. 
 
"I think he ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border, so no I would not be troubled by that," McConnell told reporters. 
 
His staff later clarified that a national emergency declaration is a legal tool at the president's proposal. But the administration said it's prepared if the courts intervene.
 

"There is word the president will declare a national emergency. I hope he won't. That would be a very wrong thing to do," he said.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Five things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' MORE (D-Calif.) separately issued a warning to Republicans, saying that if Trump declares a national emergency to build a border wall that the next Democratic president could do the same to address gun violence.

"A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans."

Pelosi declined to say Thursday if Democrats would launch a legal challenge to Trump's coming emergency declaration, though House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse passes stopgap as spending talks stall This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms MORE (D-Md.) suggested the previous day that Democrats would bring such a challenge.

Sanders on Thursday said the White House is ready for any legal challenges from Democrats against a national emergency declaration.

"We're very prepared, but there shouldn't be. The president's doing his job. Congress should do theirs," she told reporters outside her office in the West Wing.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: House passes monthlong stopgap | Broader spending talks stall | Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns | Progressives ramp up attacks on private equity House passes stopgap as spending talks stall The Hill's Morning Report - Week 2: House impeachment witnesses pick up the pace MORE (R-Ala.), who spoke to Trump on Wednesday evening, said he supports the national emergency action.

It quickly became apparent on Tuesday and Wednesday that Trump would not have enough money to meet his goal simply from repurposing funds.

Some GOP lawmakers said he could draw on an $800 million defense fund dedicated to drug interdiction but a substantial portion of that money, more than $200 million, was already being used for ongoing anti-drug operations, according to a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee who requested anonymity.

Senate Republicans have warned for weeks, however, that an emergency declaration will be subject to a lengthy legal battle and likely will be blocked by a federal judge until adjudicated by an appellate or the Supreme Court.

The emergency declaration is subject to a resolution of disapproval, which must pass both chambers and receive Trump's signature.

House Democrats, who control the lower chamber, are expected to pass the resolution and Schumer can force a vote on the Senate floor because it is privileged.

McConnell has expressed uncertainty over whether he can stop a disapproval resolution from gaining a simple majority to advance to the president's desk but he feels confident he can muster 34 votes to sustain a presidential veto.

"I think there are different opinions about it, and if he goes that route, we'll just hash it out McConnell told reporters on Feb. 5 when asked about the possibility.

"The president could win anyway by vetoing the bill and then trying to get enough votes to sustain it, so [he] may ultimately be able to prevail on the national emergency alternative," he added.

The White House left GOP lawmakers in limbo for hours on Thursday afternoon as the president's lawyers combed through the bill, which spans more than 1,000 pages.

"We are reviewing the bill (which we received at 1am and its over 1000 pages) and as soon as the President makes a decision will let you know," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The Hill when asked about the holdup.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Impeachment witness: Ukraine 'gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something' Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week MORE on Sunday said the president would take money from whatever sources available to build the border wall that became the flashpoint of a 35-day government shutdown in December in January.

"We'll take as much money as you can give us and then we'll go off and find the money someplace else, legally, in order to secure that Southern [border] but this is going to get built with or without Congress," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

He said "the whole pot is well north of $5.7 billion," referring to the amount Trump requested for the wall.

Less than half, $1.375, will come from the appropriations package Congress is poised to pass Thursday. The rest will come either from using the president's transfer authority to reprogram funding or from the national emergency.

Senate Republicans say whether or not they back the national emergency declaration will depend on how it's structured.

"He's got constitutional powers to do all that," Shelby said when asked about Trump's emergency declaration.

Asked if he would back the move, Shelby said "probably, but I'd have to see what it is."

"I think we have to secure the borders," he added.

Several Republicans immediately expressed concern over Trump’s plan but declined to say how they would vote on a disapproval resolution. 

“I’ve expressed my concern about declaring an emergency just in terms of its precedential impacts but also the practical difficulties,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation MORE (R-Texas). “If there’s a lawsuit and the money gets tied up, it’s not a very practical solution to the problem.”

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret Collins2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds MORE (R-Maine) said the declaration “will be challenged in court and is of dubious constitutionality.”

“It undermines the role of Congress and the appropriations process and it’s just not good policy,” she added.  

Republicans on the Armed Services Committee are raising concerns that the emergency money will likely be pulled away from military construction projects.

"It's a bad idea because it's a bad precedent," said a Senate Republican on the Armed Services Committee. "The most likely or maybe only fund he can allocate from is the [military construction] fund and that hits readiness and a lot of the military installations."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pentagon watchdog says Syria withdrawal hurt ISIS fight | Vindman testifies on third day of public hearings | Lawmakers to wrap up defense bill talks this week Lawmakers expect to finish defense policy bill negotiations this week Bipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator MORE (R-Okla.) said Trump could build more support for a national emergency declaration if he releases a letter assuring lawmakers that money will not be taken from military construction projects. 

– Jordan Fabian contributed

Updated: 5:20 p.m.