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Trump to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall, Mitch McConnell Says

Donald Trump
MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

UPDATED WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has indicated that he will sign a spending bill to keep the government open, but also plans to issue an emergency declaration to build a wall or physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday.

“I’ve just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I would say to all my colleagues, he has indicated he is prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.”

After McConnell’s remarks, the Senate went on to vote for the funding package, passing it overwhelming 83-16. The House passed the spending plan on Thursday evening, in a 300-128 vote. The bill offers far less than Trump demanded to build a physical barrier at the border, and commentators on the right blasted it. Sean Hannity of Fox News called it a “garbage” compromise.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump would sign the funding bill and that he would take other executive action, including a national emergency, “to ensure that we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.”

“The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” she said.

But the declaration of a national emergency is likely to face a legal challenge. Speaking to reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that it would be an “end run around Congress.” She also said that Republicans would regret the president’s action, as it would set a precedent for future occupants of the Oval Office.

“Want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today,” she said, noting that it is the first anniversary of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“Just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people,” she said.

Some Republicans also have expressed misgivings about an emergency declaration. In a statement, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called it a “mistake” that “would undermine the role of Congress in the appropriations process; It’s just not good policy.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has said that declaring a national emergency could mean that construction of the wall would get bogged down in the courts. McConnell said that he would support the national emergency declaration, even though he previously has expressed skepticism about such an approach.

The funding deal, reached by a bipartisan Congressional conference committee earlier this week, provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the border. Trump sought $5.7 billion for a much more comprehensive, steel barrier project.

California’s Secretary of State Xavier Becerra indicated potential legal action, as did Democrats in other states.

“If Trump oversteps his authority and abandons negotiations with Congress by declaring a fabricated national emergency, we won’t only call his bluff, we will do what we must to hold him accountable,” Becerra said in a statement. “No one is above the law.”