Report: Mitch McConnell Told Trump No ‘Land Mines’ in Spending Bill, a ‘Win’ over Pelosi

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: US President Donald Trump (L) talks to the press as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) looks on after the Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
JOSHUA CAPLAN

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly gave President Donald Trump false information about legislation to prevent a second partial government shutdown, claiming the bill possesses no “hidden provisions” or “landmines.”

The Kentucky Republican also is said to have told the president that signing the bill into law would be a “win” over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has long opposed any funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, having called the proposal “immoral.”

The New York Times reports:

A balky president was concerned that signing the measure could impose restraints on his ability to tap other funds and was urged by his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to tell Republican leaders to instead pass a short-term bill to keep the government open while reopening negotiations, according to a Republican briefed on the situation.

Such a move would have unraveled the delicate bipartisan balance favored by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who wanted to move beyond the wall fight. 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.

Money in the bill for border barriers, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion President Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the 200-plus miles he wanted. The White House said he would sign the legislation but act unilaterally to get more, prompting condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said the president was abusing his authority.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in a statement that the president will sign the funding bill and take executive action to build the wall. “President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border. The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” Sanders said.

President Trump is expected to announce that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers — combining the money approved by Congress with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions, including a national emergency. The money is expected to come from funds targeted for military construction and counterdrug efforts.

This week, Breitbart News reported extensively on the bill’s various “landmines.”

Texas reporters Brandon Darby and Ildefonso Ortiz wrote Thursday that the spending bill would allow Mexican cartel-connected Texas counties to prevent the border wall’s construction:

A key provision in the spending bill being presented to President Trump for signing stipulates that the federal government give specific Texas border counties the opportunity to derail any efforts to build barriers, fencing, or walls by simply opposing the construction of the border security measures–but many of the specified counties have a long and recent history of top officials taking bribes from the Mexican Gulf Cartel. Ultimately, the bill allows county offices with historic ties to the Gulf Cartel to stop U.S. border barriers from being constructed in the region.

Immigration reporter John Binder noted the bill would force the Trump administration to “seek to reach a mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers” with Starr County “local elected officials”:

The deal demands Trump’s DHS to continue “such consultations” with local elected officials about the border wall until September, or until an agreement is reached. In the meantime, the spending bill stipulates that the administration cannot build any barriers “while consultations are continuing” with local elected officials.

It is not just local elected officials who have to approve of border wall construction, though. The spending bill mandates DHS open a public comment period by July, giving the public at least 60 days to voice opinions about the construction of a barrier in their county.

Senior Legal Editor Ken Klukowski warned that President Trump and his aides must go through the bill with a fine tooth comb to ensure it does not cancel his own emergency powers:

[T]he president must beware. Experts are already flagging for concern Sections 230, 231, and 232 of the spending bill, raising the possibility that it limits the president’s flexibility to use any of the authorities listed above to secure the border and build the wall.

If the president signs this legislation, and the U.S. House votes to authorize Pelosi to sue the president in federal court or some other plaintiff is found to have standing to seek a court order to stop the wall’s construction, courts will apply the last-in-time rule: Whenever two statutes passed by Congress are inconsistent, the more recently enacted one supersedes the earlier law. Under a separate canon of statutory interpretation, a narrower provision in a law – such as a provision that specifies what can and cannot be built on the U.S.-Mexican border – supersedes a broader provision of federal law.

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight Thursday evening, Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said bill “will make the border crisis worse” if signed by President Trump.

“I think it makes things worse,” said Vaughan. “I was prepared to grudgingly accept it based on the summaries of it that were distributed on Monday and Tuesday, but we all kept saying, ‘We really have to read it first,’ but nobody had time to read it.”

“As it turns out — surprise — there are a lot of landmines in this bill. It is too big to be passing in such a rush,” she continued. “It’s not necessary, and it’s good to get the funding for the wall, but it doesn’t even seem that the funding is necessarily going to matter, because — for one thing — it gives a veto over the building of the wall in the areas that are prescribed in the bill, and the veto power is with local and municipal officials in the Rio Grande Valley, in particular.”

The immigration expert added, “So the building of the wall is far from guaranteed. And this is really unprecedented in this kind of project, up to this date. [President Trump] is not even getting the wall, really, and losing a lot of other policy measures that will make the border crisis worse.”

The Senate passed the legislation 83-16 Thursday, with both parties solidly aboard. The House followed with a 300-128 tally, with Trump’s signature planned Friday. President Trump will speak Friday morning in the Rose Garden about border security, the White House announced Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

.