Creating a bit of legislative drama, President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to veto a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill, and then after a few hours of leaving Congress in limbo and raising the specter of a government shutdown at midnight, Mr. Trump backed off and signed the bill into law, expressing his frustration over limited funding for his campaign vow to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
“I was thinking about doing the veto, but because of the incredible gains that we’ve been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our thinking,” the President said, noting the big spending increases for the Pentagon in this funding bill.
“There are a lot of things that I’m unhappy about in this bill,” the President told reporters, as he vowed, “I will never sign another bill like this again.”
The 2,232 page plan had been unveiled by GOP leaders in Congress on Wednesday night, and then rushed through the House and Senate – with bipartisan support – but the President made clear he didn’t like the final product, stacked high on a table next to him.
“Nobody read it and it’s only hours old,” the President fumed.
In expressing his frustration, the President called on Congress to give him line-item veto authority, so he could strike out specific items in spending bills – but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that power can only be given to the President by an amendment to the Constitution.
The President also turned his ire on the rules of the Senate, demanding again that Senators end the requirement to get 60 votes to end filibusters – that does not have the support of a number of GOP Senators.
The Friday drama was a complete surprise to Republicans on Capitol Hill, as the White House had made clear that the President would sign the bill – no matter some of his reservations – as lawmakers left town yesterday and today for a two week Easter break.
And then, the President tweeted just before 9 am.
On the issue of DACA and the border wall, Mr. Trump has accused Democrats of not helping resolve the status of illegal immigrant ‘Dreamers’ in the United States, while Democrats say he’s at fault.
“They did not want DACA in this bill,” the President charged, saying that Democrats are ‘using’ DACA recipients for political gain.
“DACA was abandoned by the Democrats,” the President said in an earlier tweet. “Would have been tied to desperately needed Wall.”
But while the White House accused Democrats of standing in the way of a DACA deal, they argued Mr. Trump had multiple chances to accept an agreement, as Democratic leaders had offered him $25 billion to build the wall, in exchange for a plan that would put the Dreamers on a 10-12 year path to possible U.S. citizenship.
The President rejected that, leading to the negotiation of the $1.3 trillion funding bill, which gave $1.6 billion to work on the wall.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats blasted the President.
“President Trump unilaterally rescinded DACA and rejected every bipartisan proposal that would solve the crisis,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “He went back on his word after agreeing to deals time and again.”
“One of the best things we Democrats have going for us is that Trump really has no idea what he’s doing,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA).
“More chaos and confusion, not leadership,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).