Reports: McConnell Backed Emergency Declaration to Prevent Trump Veto of Flawed Border Security Bill

President Donald Trump, left, invites Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Ky., right, onstage as he speaks at a rally at Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
NEIL MUNRO

The GOP Majority Leader in the Senate persuaded President Donald Trump to not veto the GOP’s flawed border security bill by promising to back a national emergency construction of border walls, according to insider leaks to the establishment media.

The Washington Post reported that “Trump had been leaning against supporting the congressional spending bill but relented after several conversations with [Majority Leader Sen. Mitch] McConnell, who then announced his agreement to go along with an emergency declaration.”

One reason for Trump’s last-minute opposition is that congressional leaders conducted the negotiations without significant White House involvement. “The legislation was released just before midnight Wednesday, giving lawmakers and the White House very little time to review it before voting,” said the Post.  “Lawmakers defended the rushed timeline because of the impending shutdown deadline.”

That closed process allowed pro-migration Democrats to include a wide variety of pro-migration policies and to give Texas Democrats a veto over wall construction until October 2019.  The Democratic wins over passive GOP negotiators prompted a veto threat from Trump, which was averted when McConnell promise to support the controversial emergency declaration that he had earlier rejected.

According to the New York Times,

Then President Trump awoke in a rage Thursday, feeling cornered into accepting a bipartisan funding deal struck earlier in the week that would deprive him once again of money for his long-promised wall along the southwestern border. Conservative commentators who had been cajoled into accepting the deal Wednesday were breaking their silence on Thursday.

By midmorning, after a particularly unpleasant meeting with the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, the president was threatening to torpedo the deal, according to two people briefed on the exchange. Several hours and several phone calls later, McConnell had persuaded Mr. Trump to once again agree to sign the bill to avert another government shutdown looming at midnight Friday.

But persuasion came at a price: The president would declare a national emergency to try to secure wall funding without congressional approval, he told the majority leader — and Mr. McConnell would have to back him.

The Washington Post reported:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was on the phone with Trump at least three times during the course of the nerve-racking day, pressing him to stay the course and asserting that Democrats had actually lost the spending fight, two people familiar with the conversations said.

“We thought he was good to go all morning, and then suddenly it’s like everything is off the rails,” said one senior Republican aide.

Trump refused to sign the bill Thursday until the White House Counsel’s Office convinced him it would not preclude him from declaring a national emergency, two senior administration officials said. The president is expected to declare the emergency and sign the bill Friday morning, a senior White House official said.

That political crash came after Trump successfully blocked a Democratic push to shrink the number of detention beds operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Trump blocked the less-detention plan on Sunday, and Democrats returned to the table on Monday.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby led the GOP negotiation effort and signed off on the various flaws in the bill.

Those flaws create a potentially giant amnesty for all illegals who agree to “sponsor” a teenager or child trafficked from Mexico. The plan creates a huge incentive for the growing number of Central American migrants in the United States to hire cartel-linked traffickers to deliver more children from Central America to U.S. border agencies. The loophole is so huge that it provides a legal shield against deportation to resident illegals who are “a sponsor, a potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor.”

NumbersUSA reported that Shelby and other GOP negotiators hid the traffickers’ amnesty from the President until the last moment.

An article in the New York Times said McConnell told Trump on Thursday there were no political “landmines” in the spending plan:

In a telephone conversation on Thursday, Mr. Trump asked Mr. McConnell whether the spending measure included any hidden provisions or “land mines,” and the senator reassured him it did not, according to a person familiar with the call.

Similarly, Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, and White House lawyers told him that he could still move money around, and Ms. Nielsen said that the spending package was actually better than a short-term measure. Mr. McConnell argued that it was a win over Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The report did not say if Trump knew about the Texas curbs on wall building, or knew about the traffickers’ amnesty.

According to the New York Times, Shelby got angry at Trump’s chief of staff, Mike Mulvaney for threatening a veto during a Sunday talk show.

The next day, on Monday, Shelby passively accepted a Democratic demand for reduced spending on the wall, according to the Washington Post:

An emboldened House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), a Pelosi confidante, took a page from her friend’s playbook of driving a tough bargain: She walked into the room and surprised her Senate counterparts by lowering the offer to $1.375 billion [down from $1.45 billion].

Shelby accepted without a fight.

Privately, Trump complained vociferously about the final deal and said he felt Republican negotiators had failed him and that he might not sign it, according to one person who spoke to the president. “Everyone thinks this is terrible,” Trump told this person on Tuesday,

Shelby’s concession was made in a meeting with the four top negotiators — while the other GOP negotiators and the GOP’s staff experts on immigration were absent.

Overall, few GOP Senators support Trump’s border security policies or his “Hire American” policy. In February 2018, for example, McConnell helped GOP and Democratic Senators block Trump’s “Four Pillars” reform of the immigration laws. Trump’s reforms are popular but are strongly opposed by investors and CEOs, who recognize that votes’ salaries will rise and donors’ revenues will slow if Congress reduces the one million-per-year inflow of legal migrants.

This week, reporters on Capitol Hill showed little curiosity about which Democrats pushed the child trafficking measure, or why GOP leaders accepted the new enforcement loophole. For example, Politico briefly described the new loophole, saying:

One measure within the bill would prohibit DHS from detaining or deporting a sponsor, potential sponsor, or household member of an unaccompanied minor based on information shared with HHS.

The exemption does not apply to sponsors with felony convictions or charges. Similarly, it does not apply to people linked to businesses that employ minors for less than a legal wage, or that involve prostitution.

Democrats have pushed for such protections to ensure that sponsors who step forward to claim unaccompanied children will not face the threat of arrest and deportation, but immigration hawks say it’s a free pass for undocumented immigrants.

The Hill.com applauded the congressional negotiators despite Congress’ repeated failures since 2017 to accept the public’s deep concerns about uncontrolled cheap-labor migration, and the subsequent political conflicts in Washington D.C.:

In a Congress that’s practically defined by partisan bickering, the top negotiators of the DHS deal proved the sides can discard their differences and find common ground, even on an issue as highly contentious as border security.

Despite grumbling from some lawmakers on the 17-member conference committee, the four leaders of that panel — Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger(R-Texas) — defied their doubters to hash out a compromise with two days to spare before another scheduled shutdown.

The supposed “compromise,” however, is likely to generate a constitutional crisis as Trump declares a national emergency to help build the wall.

The various media accounts focus on personalities and provide very little coverage about the details and consequences of the policies built into the spending deal.

Read the New York Times account here.

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