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House passes appropriations package to avert shutdown, sends to Trump

President will sign legislation but declare national emergency to free up more money for border wall

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference Thursday in which she fielded questions about the government funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference Thursday in which she fielded questions about the government funding bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed a spending package Thursday night, completing congressional action to avert a government shutdown with barely a day to spare. 

The final vote was 300-128. Nineteen Democrats voted against the measure, while 109 Republicans, representing a majority of their conference, were opposed. 

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the $333 billion fiscal 2019 package by an 83-16 vote. It contains seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills that were not signed into law before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. 

The four-and-a-half month delay in completing the fiscal 2019 appropriations process arose over an impasse over the Homeland Security bill — in particular President Donald Trump’s request for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. 

After a 35-day partial government shutdown over that issue that stretched from late December to late January, a House-Senate conference committee was formed to negotiate the final details on border security spending. 

The 17 appropriators on the conference committee narrowed in on a solution, before the top four appropriators from both chambers reached an agreement in principle Monday night.

The final package provides just under $1.4 billion for a physical  border barrier. Trump’s frustration with that figure is why he has decided to declare a national emergency to give himself the flexibility to divert other funds for construction of a barrier.

“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 Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump will declare the national emergency when he signs the spending package, which is expected to be Friday given that’s the final day to prevent the government from shutting down again.

The Kentucky Republican said he will support Trump’s emergency declaration, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Caucus are opposed. The California Democrat called it “an end-run” around Congress that should alarm Republicans too.

“It is interesting to see how the president has said to the Republican leadership in the Senate … ‘I don’t have confidence in what you did,’ even though the president failed to convince the American people and their representatives in Congress of his position,” Pelosi said.

Most House Republicans voted against the appropriations package because of their frustration over the lack of border wall funding, including Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, the only one of the 17 conferees who did not sign the conference report.

Still, Republicans got some wins in the bill. In particular, they rejected Democrats’ demand to put a cap on the number of detention beds that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could use for undocumented immigrants apprehended in the interior of the country, versus at the border. 

Some Democrats, such as Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, voted against the legislation because of the detention issue. The legislation barely reduced the number of beds or provided restrictions that would help clamp down on the administration’s  immigration enforcement policies, some progressives argued. 

Also watch: What is a national emergency? How Congress gave the White House broad, far-reaching powers

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