President Trump on Friday signed into law a spending bill to avoid another partial government shutdown, ensuring full-year appropriations for all federal agencies, while also signing a national emergency declaration enabling him to move money from various accounts to boost funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump said on Friday he was not happy with the spending bill, primarily because it only provided $1.375 billion for physical barriers along the border. He agreed to sign the measure and avoid a second shutdown this year, however, because his declaration will enable him to shift funds allocated for military construction and other federal programs to pay for more wall construction.
“Some of the generals think this is more important,” Trump said of moving funding away from the Pentagon and toward the southern border. On where specifically the funds will draw from, Trump added, “I won’t go into details but [the military projects] didn’t sound too important to me.”
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Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Friday that Trump will have roughly $8 billion for wall construction. About $600 million to the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s counter-drug activities and other Pentagon accounts, $3.6 billion from military construction and the $1.4 billion from the spending bill, Mulvaney said.
“We've been through a shutdown,” he said. “We've now been through three weeks of allowing Congress to try and work their will, and they're simply incapable of providing the amount of money necessary, in the president's eyes, to address the current situation at the border.”
Trump said on Friday he “didn't need to” sign the emergency declaration, but it would enable him to build the wall “much faster." Several groups promised immediate legal action to prevent the White House from proceeding with its plan.
The president’s dual signings staves off a the shutdown threat through September. A continuing resolution that ended the previous, 35-day partial shutdown was set to expire at midnight.
The bill sets line-by-line spending levels for the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State, Interior, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, Office of Personnel Management and other independent agencies. For a full analysis of the contents of that bill, which includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, see here.
The next fiscal fight is just around the corner, with the debt ceiling set to be reinstated March 1. Lawmakers will likely have some grace period to avoid a default, as the Treasury Department can institute its usual “extraordinary measures.” Congress will have to strike a deal to raise spending caps for fiscal 2020, or else face dramatic sequestration cuts as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act.