The US President will sign legislation that continues funding to government agencies, averting another shutdown.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 15, 2019

He is also reportedly determined to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and divert federal funds into building his promised wall at the US-Mexico border.

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on 14 February.

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

UPDATE: Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have issued a joint statement on the possible declaration. It reads:

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.

“It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one. He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”

Pelosi had previously declined to rule out a legal challenge to a possible emergency declaration.

UPDATE 9:30 AEDT: Republican Senator Marco Rubio has continued to distance himself from the President on the wall funding.

“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” he said in a statement. “Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal. I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement. But I am skeptical it will be something I can support.”

Other Republicans, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been vocal supporters of a declaration.

Democrats have not given any ground on the wall funding issue

The legislation Trump agreed to allocates just US$1.3 billion in funding for border security, including barriers stretching 88 kilometres (55 miles), but it falls well short of the US $5.7 billion he sought to construct the wall.

The Senate passed the legislation by a margin of 83-16 with Democratic presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren among the holdouts. On the Republican side, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz voted against it. Rubio had previously said that an emergency declaration may not stand up to a legal challenge and was “not a good precedent.”

Trump himself had previously hit out at the notion of a US President using their executive powers to bypass Congress. “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress,” he tweeted in 2014.

Schumer: this legislation “will keep our government open”

Earlier, Schumer had told Senate the legislation agreement represented 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.”

Trump’s attempts to skirt Congress suggest he is already frustrated with the new balance of power since the Democrats regained control of Congress in last year’s mid-term elections.

BBC North America Reporter Anthony Zurcher wrote “as much as the president may like to spin this as a victory by other means, he still backed down in the face of Democratic resistance in Congress.”

Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter: “I stand firmly behind President @realDonaldTrump’s decision to use executive powers to build the wall-barriers we desperately need.”