Hours before government funding was about to lapse, President Trump announced Friday at the White House that “for the sake of national security,” he signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress despite significant misgivings.
“There are a lot of things that I’m unhappy about in this bill. But we were, in a sense, forced … if we want to build our military,” he said in a news conference at the White House.
Democrats, “who don’t believe in” strengthening the military, Trump said, “added things they wanted to get the votes.”
“My highest duty is to keep America safe,” he explained.
Without the bill, which funds the government until September, the government would have shut down at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The news conference Friday began with an air of drama as Trump had the nation wondering whether or not he would sign the bill.
On Friday morning, he said on Twitter he was thinking about vetoing it.
“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.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., responded to Trump’s tweet, encouraging the president to veto a “totally irresponsible bill” that will burden future generations.
“Please do, Mr. President. I am just down the street and will bring you a pen,” Corker wrote. “The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible.”
But at the news conference, Trump explained that during Obama’s eight years in office “deep defense cuts have undermined our security” and “hollowed our readiness as a military unit and put America at really grave risk.”
He said that in negotiations on Capitol Hill in recent weeks there has been “tremendous opposition from Democrats to creating what will be, by far, the strongest military that we’ve ever had.”
“So, if we want something for the military, they want things that are, in many cases, really a wasted sum of money,” he said. “It’s not right, and it’s very bad for our country.”
‘Get rid of filibuster’
The bill, Trump said, increases total defense spending by more than $60 billion over last year and “funds the addition of critically needed ships, planes, helicopters, tanks and submarines.”
Trump, however, vowed to “never sign another bill like this again.”
“Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know what’s in it,” he said of the 2,200-page legislation, which was available to members for less than 48 hours before the final vote Thursday.
Trump urged the Senate to “get rid of the filibuster rule,” which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to end debate and move to an up-or-down vote on a bill. Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate ahead of midterm elections this fall.
Prior to the veto threat, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Trump would sign it, because “it funds his priorities.”
Along with substantially boosting military spending, the spending package increases funding for border security, infrastructure and programs to address the opioid epidemic. It also includes measures to strengthen gun-sale background checks and improve school safety.
Trump had asked for $25 billion over 10 years for the border wall with Mexico, but the bill includes just $1.6 billion for the wall. And most of that amount is restricted to repairing existing segments. Less than half of the nearly 95 miles of approved border construction can be spent on new barriers.
In January 2017, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters they were “moving ahead” with $12-$15 billion in spending for the border wall.
McConnell declared, “We intend to address the wall issue.”
Schumer, Pelosi ‘smiling ear to ear’
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, vice chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said prior to Trump’s announcement that the reaction of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to passage of the bill is telling, noting in an interview with CNBC that they were “smiling ear to ear.”
Jordan said he hoped Trump would veto it.
“I think he got a full understanding of how bad this legislation is,” Jordan said. “This is not even close to what the American people elected us to do.”
Schumer and Pelosi celebrated the bill Thursday night.
“In a certain sense we were able to accomplish more in the minority than we had the presidency or were even in the majority,” Schumer said.
Pelosi said: “They get to blow more cash on the pet projects and illegal aliens — and Trump does not get his border wall.”
The House minority leader said she believed that “one of the reasons they rushed it through they didn’t want their colleagues to see what was in the bill.”
Disappointed in ‘bad bargain’
The non-profit advocacy group Americans for Limited Government expressing disappointment in Trump’s decision to sign the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending.
The group’s president, Rick Manning, said the president’s signature “accepts Congress’ verdict that buying military material to be sent around the world is more important than defending our own border.”
“It’s clear that the president understands the bad bargain he was given, and the staff responsible for negotiating it should be fired because they failed.”
Manning said any “reasonable observer of D.C. politics over the past decade can now predict that in September, Congress will present the president with a continuing resolution, which continues the exact funding priorities he is bemoaning in the current bill as not being fully met.”
“Funding the government at levels that Obama would never have dreamed of is not an option and a continuing resolution in September will merely continue the astronomical funding levels,” he said.
Manning urged the president to “insist Congress put 13 individual appropriations bills on his desk with the military funding first so we no longer have the extortion axe of not funding the military over the nation’s head, or else veto it.”