Donald Trump plans to use unilateral authority to spend about $8 billion to construct physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a White House official, a maneuver that risks provoking a lengthy legal battle over presidential powers.
The president will invoke an emergency declaration to redirect $3.5 billion Congress approved for the Defense Department’s military construction budget, said another person familiar with the deliberations. Trump also will use his ordinary executive authority to reprogram $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction efforts and $600 million from the Treasury department’s drug forfeiture program, said the person, who asked not to be identified to discuss plans ahead of announcement.
The president plans to redirect nearly $7 billion approved for other purposes for a wall on top of $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing contained in a spending measure Trump is poised to sign Friday, said the White House official, who also asked not to be identified. The strategy avoids another politically risky government shutdown while allowing him to show his political supporters he has the will to build the wall.
Democratic leaders signaled in advance that they would probably challenge efforts by Trump to shift federal funds. “The president is doing an end run around Congress, the power of the purse,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday at a news conference.
The House voted 300-128 Thursday night for the spending measure. Hours earlier, the Senate passed it 83-16.
Trump’s signature on the spending bill Friday will keep about one-fourth of the government from closing for a second time in two months. Lawmakers of both parties said they wanted to avoid a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown that ended Jan. 25 when the president accepted a short-term spending bill without extra wall funding.
“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 spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.