US Senate passes bill to avert shutdown, sends measure to House

The US Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to avert another partial government shutdown with bipartisan spending legislation that funds new barriers for part of the US-Mexico border, but not the $5.7bn that President Donald Trump sought for a wall.

The Republican-led Senate backed the bill 83-16. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass.

As the Senate prepared to vote on the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the chamber that Trump said he would sign the bill and would also declare a national emergency to build his border wall. 

The White House later confirmed McConnell’s statement, saying the president will “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”. 

‘Unease and dismay’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, immediately hit back, saying Democrats were prepared to respond appropriately to a national emergency declaration. 

Pelosi said there is not a crisis at the border with Mexico that requires an emergency order.  

She didn’t say if House Democrats would legally challenge the president, but experts have long speculated that such an order would immediately be thrown to the courts. 

Pelosi said if Trump invokes an emergency declaration it should be met with “great unease and dismay” as an overreach of executive authority. 

Several Republicans have also cautioned Trump against taking the unilateral action on the wall, but the president has claimed that declaring national emergencies is “not unique”. 

However, an Associated Press news agency fact check found that the emergency action Trump has been contemplating would be rare.

The presidents he cites – Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton – did not use emergency powers to pay for projects that Congress wouldn’t support.

No concrete wall 

Thursday’s bill does not provide the $5.7bn Trump request for his border wall – a demand that triggered the previous shutdown, which lasted for 35 days. Democrats oppose the wall, calling it ineffective, immoral and expensive.  

The bill does provide $1.37bn in new money to help build 55 miles (88.5km) of new physical barriers on the border. It is the same level of funding Congress appropriated for border security measures last year, including barriers but not concrete walls. 

A border wall was a central 2016 campaign promise by Trump. He originally said Mexico would pay for the wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border, an idea Mexico dismissed.

“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, earlier this week. 

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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