White House: Trump weighing all options to fund border wall

US President Donald Trump listens next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, February 12, 2019. — Reuters pic
US President Donald Trump listens next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, February 12, 2019. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Feb 13 — US President Donald Trump is weighing every possible option to find money to build his wall along the southern US border, even as he considers a bipartisan border security deal from Congress, his spokeswoman said today.

Asked whether Trump would sign the deal being hammered out by US lawmakers, Sarah Sanders told Fox News in an interview that the president needed to see the final agreement before making a decision.

“There are some positives in this bill, but it’s certainly not enough,” Sanders said. “The president and his team have been looking at every option possible to get the full funding they need in order to complete the wall.”

Congress faces a tight deadline to pass legislation to avert another US government shutdown. Several news outlets reported Trump planned to sign the deal.

CNN, the Washington Post, and several other news outlets all reported that Trump intended to sign the measure into law if it passes Congress. Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those reports.

Trump yesterday, however, did not rule out vetoing the legislation and said he was not happy with the deal, which denies him funds for his US-Mexico border wall. But he also said he did not expect another shutdown.

The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives could vote as soon as this evening, a senior aide said, despite not yet having produced a written copy of the agreement reached by congressional negotiators on Monday night.

The accord must also be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and signed by Trump by the midnight Friday expiration of a stopgap measure that ended the longest federal shutdown in US history.

The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.

Congressional sources said the deal includes US$1.37 billion (RM5.58 billion) for new border fencing, about the same as last year — along 90km of the border — but not the US$5.7 billion Trump has demanded to help build his promised border wall.

Senior congressional Republicans, showing little appetite for another shutdown after being heavily criticised for the previous one, urged Trump to support the agreement.

The Republican president surprised lawmakers when he withdrew support for a previous deal in December and demanded the US$5.7 billion in wall funding, opposed by congressional Democrats. That triggered the 35-day shutdown of about a fourth of the federal government that left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay.

The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects. CNN, citing the White House, also said Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.

The president previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall — a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.

Trump made the wall a central 2016 campaign promise, calling it necessary to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He said Mexico would pay for it, but Mexican officials rejected that. Democrats have called a wall expensive, ineffective and immoral. — Reuters