Saturday March 24, 2018
By: John Wagner and Mike DeBonis
DeBonisJust hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday, averting a government shutdown.
In a morning tweet, Trump said he might veto the omnibus bill because it did nothing to address the fate of young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” and did not fully fund his border wall.
But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.
“My highest duty is to keep America safe,” Trump said. “We need to take care of our military.”
Still, he voiced disdain for the hasty way the bill was passed.
“I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said, also calling on Congress to give him a line-item veto, a tool that the Supreme Court has said is unconstitutional for a president.
“There are a lot of things that I’m unhappy about in this bill,” he said later in his 20-minute remarks, telling reporters that he had “very seriously” considered a veto.
[ Why did Trump threaten to veto a spending bill hours before he signed it? ]
The announcement, which Trump teased in a separate tweet an hour before, capped off a wild morning in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Several aides scrambled to persuade the president not to follow through with his veto threat.
In his tweet Friday morning, Trump said that those protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have been “totally abandoned” by Congress, and he blamed the Democrats.
Trump, who decided last fall to end the DACA program, was seeking a deal that would give Democrats protections they sought for the program's recipients in exchange for additional funding of $25 billion for his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. The bill includes $1.6 billion for fencing and other border security measures.
“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump said in his tweet.
In his remarks at the White House, Trump said he was disappointed in the level of border-security funding but pledged to do as much as possible with it and to seek more money from Congress.
Saying he was addressing Hispanics, Trump argued that his party is more interested in the fate of dreamers than Democrats are.
“Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes,” the president said. His aides have argued Democrats are trying to use DACA as an election issue.
People familiar with Trump’s thinking said the president was frustrated with the bill and the coverage it was receiving, particularly on Fox News, where critics took aim at the level of spending in the bill.
“He doesn’t care as much about the spending levels, but he knows all of his conservative friends do,” said a senior White House official who requested anonymity to speak more candidly.
Lawmakers have left town on a two-week recess, some of them on overseas trips and with no plans to return to Washington. The House passed the bill midday Thursday, and the Senate cleared the measure early Friday, shortly after midnight.
Trump had until midnight Friday to sign a bill, or a government shutdown would have ensued.