President Trump announced Friday afternoon that he will sign a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through February 15, ending the longest government shutdown in history, which has left some 800,000 federal workers without paychecks.
Trump’s concession — the stop-gap measure will not provide the $5.7 billion in border-wall funding that he’d demanded, precipitating the shutdown in the first place — will allow a congressional committee with representatives of both parties time to negotiate a homeland-security-appropriations bill that addresses the thorny issue of border-wall funding, Trump said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
Should the committee fail to develop an acceptable border-security bill, Trump implied he would declare a national emergency and unilaterally reallocate military funds for the wall’s construction.
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier. If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shutdown on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” he said.
The announcement comes after a pair of rival spending bills were voted down in the Senate on Thursday. One, backed by Republicans and endorsed by the White House, included $5.7 billion for the construction of a border wall in exchange for a three-year asylum extension for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. The other, backed by Democrats, would have reopened the government without addressing the question of border security.
Both pieces of legislation were expected to fail by Congressional leaders and White House officials alike and were widely considered to be test votes, conducted to gauge the support of each caucus for the shutdown strategy pursued by their respective leaders.
The test votes appeared to weaken Trump’s negotiating position as the Democrats’ bill received the support of six Republicans, while Trump’s proposal was backed by just one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
After meeting with the president on Thursday afternoon, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) told reporters that the White House would accept a short-term spending bill that included a “large down payment” on border-wall funding — a revelation White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later confirmed. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called that apparent concession a “non-starter” in comments to reporters Thursday evening.
Graham met Friday morning with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was reportedly absent from negotiations until this week. Following the meeting, Graham, who previously had urged the president to end the shutdown by declaring a national emergency, told reporters that the widespread airport delays reported Friday were “signs of things to come” should the shutdown continue.