President Donald Trump of the United States will sign a border security bill to avert another government shutdown, but will also declare a national emergency to obtain funds for his promised US-Mexico border wall, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.
In an attempt to bypass Congress to get money that politicians have denied him for his wall, Trump appeared headed towards triggering a swift court challenge from Democrats on constitutional grounds.
“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 president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” she added.
‘End run around Congress’
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to the announcement, saying she was prepared to respond appropriately to a national emergency declaration.
Pelosi said there was not a crisis at the border with Mexico that required a national emergency order.
She has not said if House Democrats would legally challenge the president. But Pelosi did say if Trump invoked an emergency declaration it should be met “great unease and dismay” as an overreach of executive authority.
She added that such a declaration would mean Trump was making an “end run around Congress”.
The top Democrat in the Senate echoed Pelosi’s harsh comments.
Senator Chuck Schumer said if Trump declared a national emergency to build the wall, he would be committing a “lawless act”. He also warned that Congress would take steps to stop the president.
He added that Trump would be committing “naked contempt for the rule of law and congressional authority”.
Bill goes to House
Thursday’s White House announcement came as Congress prepared to vote on bipartisan legislation that would provide more than $300bn to fund the Department of Homeland Security and a range of other federal agencies through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Funding is due to expire for those agencies on Friday.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill 83-16 later on Thursday. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which is also expected to pass it.
The bill does not provide the $5.7bn Trump requested for his border wall – a demand that triggered the previous shutdown, which lasted for 35 days. Democrats oppose the wall, calling it ineffective, immoral and expensive.
The bill does provide $1.37bn in new money to help build 55 miles (88.5km) 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.
A border wall was a central 2016 campaign promise by Trump. He originally said Mexico would pay for the wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200km) border, an idea Mexico dismissed.
“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, earlier this week.
Al Jazeera and news agencies