Senate approves spending bill as Trump emergency declaration looms

February 14, 2019

With President Trump’s signature assured, the Senate on Thursday approved the $333 billion spending deal that funds dozens of federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, averting another shutdown.

The 83-16 vote still must be followed by House approval, though that was expected later Thursday.

Lawmakers had been reading through nearly 2,000 pages of legislative language in the bill and accompanying report, released just after midnight Thursday, as they awaited an announcement from the White House about what Mr. Trump would do.

Mr. McConnell broke the wait just after 3 p.m., saying he’d spoken with the president and had assurances he would sign the measure but he’ll also issue a national emergency declaration to build more wall than Congress has approved.

“I had an opportunity to speak with President Trump and he, I would say to all my colleagues, has indicated he’s prepared to sign the bill. He’ll also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time,” Mr. McConnell said.

The White House confirmed the move.

Heading into the Senate vote, leaders in both parties said avoiding more budget pain trumped lingering concerns about which side came out ahead in the standoff over border security and about having members vote on the 1,100-plus page bill less than 24 hours after it was introduced.

Shutting down the government was “stupid,” and to go through it again would be “more stupid,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican.

“A, we should pass whatever it takes to get out of a shutdown. And B, we should never let this happen to us again,” Mr. Isakson said.

The bill provides nearly $1.4 billion for new border “fencing” in Texas. That’s well below the $5.7 billion Mr. Trump was seeking, but significantly higher than the $1 ante House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered last year.

There is also enough money to maintain a daily average of 45,274 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds, which was another sticking point for both sides. The legislation also includes flexibility for ICE to go above that number if need be, as the White House and congressional Republicans had advocated.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the package a “reasonable compromise” and said it provides for “smart, effective border security.”

“It does not fund the president’s wall, but it does fund smart border security initiatives that both parties have always supported,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Most importantly, it will keep our government open.”

After top negotiators announced Monday evening they’d reached an agreement in “principle,” staff raced to put the ideas to paper. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey officially filed the bill in the House just before the clock struck midnight late Wednesday evening.

The House was expected to pass the bill later Thursday.

Lawmakers had anticipated that Mr. Trump would sign a Senate-passed stopgap funding bill in December, but the president ultimately refused, saying it fell short on border security. That helped trigger the recent 35-day shutdown the longest in U.S. history.

In addition to homeland security money, the package also includes funding through September for departments like NASA and the EPA that are covered by six other individual spending bills lawmakers had been close to finalizing last year before the standoff over the border wall derailed the process.

It includes a 1.9 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers, and a $1 billion boost for the Commerce Department to prepare for the 2020 census.

It also provides $11.3 billion for the IRS, a slight boost compared to 2018, as the agency grapples with processing Americans’ tax returns for the first full filing year after Republicans passed their $1.5 trillion tax-cut package late in 2017.