U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Plans News Conference After Veto Threat Risks Shutdown

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’ll hold a news conference Friday afternoon on the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress, hours after tweeting that he’s considering vetoing the legislation and raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

U.S. government funding is set to expire at midnight Friday, and if Trump follows through on his threat it almost assuredly would trigger a partial shuttering of the government. Many lawmakers already left Washington after the legislation won final passage.

“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," Trump tweeted Friday morning. That was followed hours later with his announcement on Twitter that he’ll address the public at the White House.

The morning tweet blindsided Trump’s aides and Republican leaders who had been delivering assurances since Wednesday that the president would sign the bill. It also injected chaos into what appeared to be the end of the legislative process. A month of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats resulted in a deal to raise defense and domestic spending following a bruising fight that triggered a shutdown in January.

“Let’s cut right to the chase. Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes. Why? Because it funds his priorities,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said at a briefing on Thursday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had briefed Trump on the spending package Wednesday, said he was confident of White House support.

“Yeah, yeah, the president supports this bill, there’s no two ways about it,” Ryan said Thursday at a news conference.

Less than 30 minutes before Trump’s tweet, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on Fox News that the bill met the priorities Trump had set. She also cited a previous government shutdown forced by Democrats over the failure to win protections for young immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump announced he would end DACA but the program remains in place temporarily because of court challenges.

‘Huge Mistake’

“The Democrats shut down government in December or January I think it was, you’ll recall,” Conway said. “That’s not happening again. I think that was a huge mistake."

McConnell, of Kentucky, had no immediate comment, said his spokesman, David Popp. AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, also had no immediate comment. The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate with bipartisan majorities, but not quite enough votes to override a presidential veto.

White House staff were left trying to figure out what the president was thinking, according to an administration aide. Several congressional aides from both parties said they viewed Trump’s tweet as more bluff and bluster than an actual threat because a veto would jettison a significant increase in defense spending that the administration had been seeking.

Mattis Meeting

Trump was meeting Friday morning with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis before departing in the afternoon to his Florida country club for the weekend.

While Republican leaders scrambled to respond, some Republicans who objected to the spending levels in the bill and other lawmakers who complained that they were forced to vote on a 2,232-page bill with little time to read and analyze it cheered the president’s threat.

“Please do, Mr. President. I am just down the street and will bring you a pen,” Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said on Twitter. “The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible.”

Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California accused Republicans of jamming through the legislation without giving Congress time to read it.

“What is GOP hiding?” Lieu said in a tweet. “I fully support a VETO. The American people--and Members of Congress--deserve to know what is in the bill.”

Ridicule from Democrat

Virginia Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly ridiculed the president in a tweet.

“Reminder: Trump created DACA chaos. It was his action alone. Then he abandoned multiple deals. How can anyone negotiate with this very stable genius?” Connolly said on Twitter.

The bill, funding the government through September, attracted bipartisan support despite complaints about increased government spending amid growing budget deficits and a lack of time to review measure. Republicans praised an $80 billion increase in military spending while Democrats highlighted an additional $63 billion in domestic spending.

It was chock full of spending and policy priorities as lawmakers tried to wrap up lingering issues in what likely is the last major piece of legislative business before the November elections that will decide control of Congress.

The measure, H.R. 1625, includes $1.6 billion for border security, including money for fencing and levees, though that’s only a fraction of the $25 billion that Trump wanted to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The White House had tried to negotiate a deal with Democrats that would have temporarily extended the DACA program in exchange for a $25 billion committee for border security and a wall along the U.S. frontier with Mexico. Those talks, which delayed debate on the spending bill, fell apart.

It also has a provision creating incentives to bolster reporting by federal agencies to the database for gun-buyer background checks, as well as $21 billion for infrastructure projects and an additional $4 billion to combat opioid addiction.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.