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Congress passes spending bill; Trump to declare emergency over border

By
Darryl Coote and Danielle Haynes
The White House said President Donald Trump will follow through on earlier threats to declare a national emergency so he can build barriers along the Mexico border wall without congressional approval. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
The White House said President Donald Trump will follow through on earlier threats to declare a national emergency so he can build barriers along the Mexico border wall without congressional approval. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Congress passed a spending bill aimed at avoiding another government shutdown. The White House said President Donald Trump will sign it -- and also declare a national emergency over border security.

The legislation was passed by a vote of 300-128 in the House not long after the Senate agreed to it with a vote of 83-16.

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"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 Sanders said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would support the emergency declaration.

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Trump has threatened the move for weeks so he can spend money to build a wall or barrier along the border with Mexico without congressional approval. The president sought $5.7 billion in the spending bill to build parts of the wall, but an impasse over that funding shut down the government for 35 days starting in December.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said if Trump declares a national emergency, she'd consider filing a legal challenge.

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"That's an option and we will review our options. But it's important to note that when the President declares this emergency, first of all it's not an emergency what's happening at the border -- it's a humanitarian challenge to us ... The president is doing an end run around Congress."

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Sanders told reporters the White House is "very prepared" for legal challenges.

The new spending bill includes $1.38 billion for physical barriers along the border, about one-fifth the amount Trump requested. Democrats have repeatedly said they won't allocate that much, and projections estimate the final tally on a full border wall could cost $25 billion.

The funds are allocated for the construction of about 55 miles of a barrier in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

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The Department of Homeland Security will receive $49.4 billion in discretionary funding, $2 billion more than Trump requested and, along with the 55-mile barrier, includes $100 million for "new border security technology," $113 million for "additional air and marine assets," and $77 million for "opioid equipment and staffing for use at international mail and express consignment facilities," according to a summary of t he bill.

It does not include funding for new Border Patrol agents.

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The bill does include a provision to protect some wildlife refuges and a historic chapel in Texas, that are in the path of the proposed wall construction.

The bill would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from preventing "a member of Congress from entering any facility that is used to detain or otherwise house children," the summary said.

A pair of Democratic senators were denied access last summer to migrant processing facilities.

Concerning the treatment of migrant and asylum-seeking families who enter America, a second, longer explanatory summary of the bill says it directs Homeland Security to ensure "that separated family units are reunited and transferred together" before either being deported or transferred to an immigration center.

It also prohibits Homeland Security from placing pregnant women in restraints and provides oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of detainees.

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