Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday afternoon announced President Donald Trump's decision to sign a bill to avert another government shutdown and declare a national emergency to siphon billions from other federal coffers for his wall on the Mexican boundary.
News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney, director of Jacksonville University's Public Policy Institute, said the shutdown may be avoided, but a showdown is just beginning over the expected national emergency declaration.
The abrupt announcement of Trump's plans came late in an afternoon of rumblings that the president -- who'd strongly hinted he'd sign the agreement but never definitively -- was shifting toward rejecting it. That would have infused fresh chaos into a fight both parties are desperate to leave behind, a thought that drove some lawmakers to seek heavenly help.
McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to announce Trump's decisions to sign the bill and declare an emergency.
"I've just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump. I would say to all my colleagues he has indicated he is prepared to sign the bill," McConnell said. "He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time. I've indicated to him that I'm going to support the national emergency declaration. So for all of my colleagues, the president will sign the bill."
Minutes after McConnell made the announcement, the White House finally revealed what the president was planning to do, saying in a statement, "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."
"Given that he had three bad choices, he's come to the conclusion, obviously, that's his best choice," Mullaney said.
Mullaney said the president had three options: One, accepting the deal, which only has $1.3 billion for a border barrier. Two, reject it and have another government shutdown. Or three, accept the deal and then try to get more money through declaring the national emergency.
"It's going to be very challenging for him to get the money. First of all, there'll be legal challenges. Those challenges will take a long time before those challenges are completed. One, if he is successful on the legal challenges, you're going to have the problem getting the money. Of course, you're going to reprogram that from other areas that will then be short-funded," Mullaney said. "So there's a long way to go."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused the president of trying to pull a fast one.
"It's not an emergency what's happening at the border. It's a humanitarian challenge to us. The president has tried to sell a bill of goods to the American people. Putting that aside, just in terms in of the president making an end run around the Congress," she said.
In an unusual joint statement, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said such a declaration would be "a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract" from Trump's failure to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as he's promised for years.
Pelosi and Schumer also said that "Congress will defend our constitutional authorities." They declined to say whether that meant lawsuits or votes on resolutions to prevent Trump from unilaterally shifting money to wall-building, with aides saying they would wait to see what he does.
Democratic state attorneys general said they would consider legal action to block Trump.