President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency — along with other measures he will take to move around money — will allow him to access roughly $8 billion to build a border wall, senior administration officials told reporters on a press call Friday morning. They expect it to fund the 234 miles of barriers that he had sought to build with his $5.7 billion request that Congress rebuffed.
Congress, in a spending deal both chambers passed Thursday, instead has appropriated just $1.375 billion, which is part of the $8 billion estimate the White House is now touting.
“We’ve been through a shutdown, we’ve now been through three weeks of allowing Congress to try to work their will. They’re simply incapable of providing the amount of money necessary,” White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said.
The bulk of the difference is being made up with $3.6 billion that will be unlocked with Trump’s emergency declaration, which he was scheduled to make Friday morning. That move is expected to face various legal challenges. The seniors officials on the call declined to discuss the White House’s strategy to defend it in court and from whatever pushback Trump gets from Congress.
Among the tools at Democrats’ disposal is a law that allows them to bring up for a vote in the House a measure rejecting the emergency declaration. The law triggers a process setting up an automatic vote in the Senate after the House takes up the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had warned Trump that a national declaration would split Republicans, who fear it is a dangerous expansion of executive branch power, but McConnell now says he supports Trump’s decision.
In additional to the national emergency funds, another $600 million can be tapped from a Department of Treasury forfeiture fund, the officials said Friday. Some $2.5 billion more will be drawn from other Department of Defense accounts, and particularly from pools of money set aside for counter-drug trafficking programs. Funding for disaster relief for Texas and Puerto Rico is not on the table, the officials said.