President Donald Trump intends to declare a national emergency to obtain funding for his long-promised wall on the southern U.S. border alongside the bipartisan spending bill that does not provide full funding for the project, according to The New York Times.
The move would effectively end a two-month war of attrition between the president and Congress that closed much of the federal government for 35 days and left it facing a second shutdown as early as Friday, but it could instigate a new constitutional clash over who controls the federal purse.
“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,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” Ms. Sanders said, as she announced Mr. Trump would sign it.
The bill headed toward Trump’s desk after formal votes in the Senate and House includes “$1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing,” which the Times noted is far less than the $5.7 billion Trump demanded for over 200 miles of concrete or steel wall.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump would be able to tap money for the wall that has not been allocated by Congress for such a project, most assuredly inviting legal challenge.
Legal experts have said Mr. Trump has a plausible case that he can take such action under current law, but it would almost surely prompt a court challenge from critics arguing that he is usurping two centuries of congressional control over spending.
Anticipating Trump’s move, Democrats have readied legislation that would “curtail the president’s abilities to use certain funds after a national emergency declaration,” the Times said.
A group of Democrat senators — including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, all aspiring presidential nominees — collaborated on a measure to prevent Mr. Trump from using funds appropriated for disaster relief to pay for border wall construction.
Democrats or other critics of the president will almost surely file legal challenges to his move, which could ultimately lead to a confrontation at the Supreme Court. The court is led by a five-member conservative majority, but it has shown skepticism of presidential excesses in recent years, reining in both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama when the justices concluded they had overstepped their authority.