WASHINGTON — After flirting with a veto threat on a massive spending bill that doesn’t fund a concrete border wall, President Trump signed the omnibus to avert a government shutdown.
Trump declared afterward, “I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again.”
He told reporters he “looked very seriously at the veto; I was thinking about doing the veto.” A veto would have resulted in a government shutdown at midnight. He’d tweeted earlier in the day, “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.”
“But because of the incredible gains that we’ve been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our thinking,” he said at a hastily arranged news conference.
The $1.3 trillion spending package passed the House 256-167, with the “no” votes coming from both sides of the aisle: 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats. The final tally in the Senate was 65-32.
The bill contains $1.6 billion for border security measures including fences and repairing existing infrastructure.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) had offered to help Trump veto the bill. “I am just down the street and will bring you a pen,” he tweeted. “The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touted the bill as delivering “the largest year-on-year increase in funding in more than a decade; it also delivers the largest pay raise for our troops in eight years.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis had urged Trump to sign the bill because of those defense funding boosts.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in 1790 in George Washington’s first annual address to Congress, he stated, ‘To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving the peace,'” Mattis said at the White House news conference. “As the president noted, today we received the largest military budget in history, reversing many years of decline and unpredictable funding. And together, we are going to make our military stronger than ever.”
“We in the military are humbled and grateful to the American people for their sacrifices on behalf of this funding,” he said. “Now it’s our responsibility in the military to spend every dollar wisely in order to keep the trust and the confidence of the American people and the Congress.”
Trump called the funding allocation toward border fencing, fence repairs and technology a “down payment” on his $25 billion border wall request, even though Democrats secured a provision that kept funds from going toward his concrete wall prototypes.
“A lot of money coming to the border, and it will be coming over a period of time. We funded the initial down payment of $1.6 billion. We’re going to be starting work literally on Monday on not only some new wall — not enough, but we’re working on that very quickly — but also fixing existing walls and existing acceptable fences,” Trump said.
“There are some areas that you have to see through. You have to be able to see through the other side in order to see what’s coming. And in many cases it’s not a pretty picture when you look, but you have to be able to see it,” he added. “So, we have $1.6 billion for the wall, that’ll start immediately. This is a short-term funding, but it’s immediate — it starts immediately.”
The president said he was “very disappointed” in the $1.3 trillion price tag of the omnibus — “nobody more disappointed than me, because the number is so large — it’ll start coming down — we had no choice but to fund our military, because we have to have by far the strongest military in the world. And this will be, by far, the strongest military that we’ve ever had.”
“I just want to thank members of Congress for working so hard,” he added. “While we can be disappointed in some ways, we have to also know that there are a lot of strings pulling everybody in different directions.”