US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order declaring a national emergency, which will empower him to fund the construction of a massive wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country and curb drug smuggling.
“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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” she said. The move would help Trump get USD 5.6 billion for the construction of the wall that, he has asserted, is essential for national security.
The compromise legislation passed by Congress includes $1.3bn (£1bn) in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards Trump’s wall. Trump had wanted $5.7bn for this.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the president was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.
In a 83-16 vote, the Senate on Thursday passed the border security bill. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the president make an emergency declaration.
She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a strongly worded joint statement condemning the move.
“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,” they said.
“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.”