After a late 1:30 pm start to the hastily organized afternoon press conference, President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending measure Friday averting a government shutdown at midnight, acting just hours after saying he was considering a veto. He wasn't.
Saying he was "unhappy" with the bill, the president explained that while the bill isn't perfect, it includes several "hard-fought" defense spending increases (the largest on record) which push the defense budget to $700BN, and a pay-hike for the troops. Trump added that he was "forced" to sign the bill for national security reasons, knowing full well the pushback he will get on the right for caving to conservatives on both the wall and the exploding budget.
To offset the anger, Trump emphasized that he would "never sign a bill like this again." He complained that the legislation does not fully fund his plans for a border wall with Mexico and does not address some 800,000 “Dreamer” immigrants who are now protected from deportation under a program that he has moved to eliminate. He said he signed it in order to provide needed money for the military.
He also said that the Senate needs to get rid of the filibuster - and that Congress should grant him line-item veto power.
Trump had vacillated earlier in the week on whether to support the bill, but promised he would sign it after a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday.
Shortly before the press conference, Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly met with Trump to lobby him to sign the bill, and it would appear his efforts were successful.
News conference at the White House concerning the Omnibus Spending Bill. 1:00 P.M.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018
Earlier Friday, Trump cast doubt on whether he would back the massive spending bill, saying he was “considering” a veto. Then, adding to the made-for-TV drama, he scheduled a news conference. Telegraphing the outcome, an internal White House television feed advertised the event this way: “President Trump Participates in a Bill Signing.”
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.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018
With Congress already on recess, Trump had said on Twitter that he was weighing a veto. He said that young immigrants now protected in the U.S. under Barack Obama’s Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals “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.”
Several advisers inside and outside the White House had characterized the tweet as Trump blowing off steam.
Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said he had been asked to prepare a contingency plan for a shutdown, an ominous sign ahead of the announcement.
Trump’s tweet had been at odds with what top members of Trump’s administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday, and with a formal statement of administration policy, which said Trump was supportive of the measure.
It came hours after the Senate early Friday morning passed the $1.3 trillion spending package aimed at keeping the government open past midnight. With Congress already out of town, the government will head toward a shutdown if Trump does not sign the bill Friday.