WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will sign Congress' border security compromise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. The announcement removed the last ounce of suspense over the fate of a bill that would provide just a sliver of the money Trump wants to build a wall with Mexico but also would avoid a new government shutdown.
But McConnell also said Trump would quickly declare a national emergency. The president has said that move would give him power to divert money from other budget projects into wall building.
McConnell also said he would support Trump's emergency declaration. That was a turnabout for the Kentucky Republican, who like Democrats and many Republicans has until now opposed such a declaration.
The emergency declaration will inject the likelihood of fresh conflict between Congress and Trump over his efforts to build barriers along the boundary with Mexico. Opponents have said there is no crisis at the border and Trump is merely sidestepping Congress.
The Republican-controlled Senate began voting on the agreement Wednesday, and passage by that chamber and the Democratic-led controlled seemed certain.
Trump had signaled he would sign the bill but it was unclear until McConnell's announcement if he would do so, prompting some lawmakers to voice concern.
"Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so the government doesn't shut down," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chiming in after a guest chaplain opened Thursday's session.
Trump's assent would end a raucous legislative saga that commenced before Christmas and was ending, almost fittingly, on Valentine's Day. The low point was the historically long 35-day partial federal shutdown, which Trump sparked and was in full force when Democrats took control of the House, compelling him to share power for the first time.