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Senate Passes Spending Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown; Trump Set to Sign Budget Deal, Declare National Emergency to Fund Border Wall. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 14, 2019 - 16:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he used it with and, frankly, against, on the other side -- I'm not against -- on the other side of a negotiation with the president of the United States.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Thanks to all of our contributors this hour.

Jake Tapper picks up our special coverage from Washington now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with the breaking news in the politics lead.

Capitol Hill in a veritable frenzy at this hour, with the last-minute fear that President Trump might not sign that spending bill to keep the government funded because there wasn't enough money in it for his border wall.

Moments ago, the White House finally went on the record saying not just at the president would sign the bill, but that he will also now declare a national emergency in an attempt to get more border wall funding.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, had previously voiced concerns about declaring a national emergency, but he appeared to have softened on this position today in order to get the president's signature on the government spending bill.

We're covering this very busy afternoon from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Let me start on Capitol Hill with Manu Raju.

Manu, the president was apparently calling Republican lawmakers today venting about the spending deal and obviously put Senator McConnell, the Senate leader, in a tough spot. Walk us through what happened.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans were nervous all day long, Jake, about whether or not the president would indeed sign this legislation.

I'm told at a closed-door lunch they had no idea whether or not the president was going to sign this. Coming out of lunch, several Republican senators told me they didn't know. They weren't going to commit to voting until they knew exactly where the president stood.

Now, Mitch McConnell has opposed a national emergency declaration for some time. He's worried about the precedent that would set. He's worried that Republicans would vote with Democrats on a resolution to try to block the president from moving forward.

He has warned the president against going this direction. However, the president making it -- signaling that he may not support this legislation, essentially convinced McConnell that in order to get this through, he too has to get behind this idea of declaring a national emergency.

There are a load of questions, Jake, about exactly what that means. But one thing is pretty clear, that there will be a challenge likely in court about whether the president can do this. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, just moments ago warned that she may take action to prevent the president from doing this in court.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Review our options. We will be prepared to respond appropriately to it.

I know the Republicans have some unease about it, no matter what they say, because, if the president can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people.


RAJU: Now, Jake, there will be an effort on Capitol Hill to disapprove of this from going forward.

And there's really nothing that Mitch McConnell can do in the Senate to prevent that vote from happening under the special consideration they will be given here, the process that they will use. They will force a vote in the Senate.

And they will put Republicans in a difficult spot, deciding whether to side with the president or side with their concerns they have voiced for weeks about going this route. I talked to several Republican senators heading into this vote. They are very concerned about what this means, people even like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership.

All told me they're very worried about this as well, as John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. But all of them are saying they need more details. The members do not have any idea really where he plans to get this money, how he plans to invoke this authority. So there are a lot of questions. Republicans aren't clear. And the White House itself, other than that statement saying he is going to declare a national emergency, not explaining how this is going to happen. So this fight, while the shutdown may be averted, is not ending any time soon, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu, a couple things.

First of all, explain what's going on right now. On the left side of the screen, we see people in the Senate voting. Are they voting on the government spending bill right now?

RAJU: Yes, they just voted to overcome a filibuster, actually overwhelmingly, voting more than 80 votes. It was a 84-14 vote to overcome a filibuster blocking this legislation from going forward.

So, essentially, they're on the final vote to vote final passage on this measure. It will pass the Senate easily. Then it heads to the House tonight, where it's also expected to pass. We will see how some of the members come down.

We do know that some of these members, particularly on the left, were concerned that it didn't go far enough in limiting how ICE can go after undocumented immigrants, but easily will pass with bipartisan support, but also bipartisan concerns about that national emergency move, Jake.


And, Manu, you talked about the bipartisan concerns about the national emergency being declared. You heard Speaker Pelosi there talking about what a different president with different values might do in terms of declaring a national emergency.

She even suggested, potentially, I guess she was imagining a Democratic president declaring a national emergency having to do with gun violence in the United States.


The Republican opposition in the Senate -- this is actually important, because this is going to be voted on. The president declares it, and then the House will vote on the national emergency, and the Senate will vote on the national emergency.

Are there enough Republican senators who are opposed to this, in theory, that it actually will lose in the Senate? Are there enough?

I guess what I'm saying is, Marco Rubio, Roy Blunt, et cetera, all the Republicans you're talking about, are they going to put their money where their mouth is?

RAJU: That is totally unclear. I have been actually trying to pin these members down for weeks on this, as they have been talking about this.

All of them have said, we don't know yet, because we need to see exactly what the president is doing, where he's going to get this money. Let's say, for instance, he tried to tap into Army Corps of Engineers projects or go after disaster relief money.

Those two things would be met with furious opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike. Others will raise concerns, as you mentioned, about the precedent that this would set. So will they actually vote this way? It really depends on the details.

Can the president convince them to stick with them? They're not saying yes because they want to learn more. But clearly there will be a fight for the president to get this through Congress. And, of course, they need a veto-proof majority, meaning that they will need a significant amount of Republicans on both chambers to jump ship to overcome the president blocking any effort in Congress trying to prevent him from making this move, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Stay with us if you have any more breaking news.

Let's go to the White House, where Abby Phillip is.

And, Abby, the White House has put out a statement saying the president will sign the legislation and he will declare a national emergency. What's next? Where do we go from here?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, this caps several days of uncertainty both here in the White House and also on Capitol Hill about what President Trump would ultimately do about this bipartisan spending bill that he was unsure he was going to sign up until just a few minutes ago.

The president spent the afternoon meeting with his aides in the Oval Office, going through the details of this bill. He tweeted midday that he was reviewing it after it was released near midnight last night.

And he was also calling Republicans on Capitol Hill, trying to weigh his options here, get some advice on how to move forward. But one of the messages that the president received was that nobody wanted another government shutdown.

His options then became very limited. He would either need to not sign the bill, and there would almost certainly be a shutdown, or he would sign it, and then could have the option of declaring a national emergency to get more funds to go ahead and build his border wall.

Now, the White House saying definitively now that he's going to declare a national emergency tells you that they are looking at trying to identify a larger universe of money that could be available to him in order to build the wall.

There were some options available to him that might not have required a national emergency. But this is clearly the politically more difficult route, and it's one that came after Mitch McConnell was the one who announced it before the White House even did on the floor. McConnell not too long ago was very much opposed to declaring the

national emergency. So, on Capitol Hill, there was some real concern that the president could plunge Republicans into yet another political crisis. McConnell backing away from his opposition to a national emergency cleared the way for the president to say, yes, I'm going to sign this bill

Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, spoke to reporters just a few minutes ago, asked about some of these legal challenges that the White House has expected for several weeks now. And she says that she doesn't think that there will be, but the White House is prepared for them.

She says Congress needs to do their job. But everybody knows that even though the White House doesn't think that there's going to be a legal challenge, there almost certainly will be. Aides have been telling us behind the scenes for weeks now that they expect that to happen pretty much immediately once the president makes that decision, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's chew over this with our experts.

Kaitlan Collins, you're also a White House correspondent. Just, I don't know, half-an-hour, 45 minutes ago, you reported that White House aides were now starting to back away from their confidence that the president -- not that they were really confident -- but back away from assurances the president would sign this.

Do you think that that reporting prompted Mitch McConnell to like take action and get this done?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's hard to overstate what a roller coaster today has been, because earlier today, the president was calling his allies on Capitol Hill saying he didn't know if he was going to sign this bill, venting about the parts of it that he didn't like.

They have been looking at it when it came through about midnight last night. And that is White House aides who earlier this week were telling us behind the scenes, they wouldn't say on the record, but they would say behind the scenes that the president is likely to sign this bill, we're going to avoid a government shutdown.

They were no longer saying that. Aides were saying it was increasingly looking like the president wasn't going to sign it. So we reported that they didn't have confidence the president was going to sign this bill.

Then McConnell interrupts Grassley on the floor and announces, actually, the president has just told me he is going to sign it and declare a national emergency.

And I think Phil and Dana made one of the most stunning points in all of this, is that McConnell has clearly stated his opposition to a national emergency in recent weeks. So for him to go on the floor and say the president is going to do so, something that he could have gotten Republican senators to block the president from being able to do, really shows just how in danger the president was in opposing this bill, and not letting it become -- and not signing it.


TAPPER: And prompting a second government shutdown.


TAPPER: And McConnell's concerns, as have been reported, are that a national emergency sets a precedent that will -- it's unpredictable -- who knows what a Democratic president, who knows what President Ocasio-Cortez, what national emergency she will declare that Republicans won't like.

And then also that it will divide the caucus. Republicans -- there are Republicans who are -- like Rand Paul and others, who are very much opposed to it.

OLIVIER KNOX, SIRIUSXM: The president has a lot of sweeping power to do this under a 1970s law.

We don't know what he's doing yet. I would say watch to see what he does, because in the early part of the administration, they said -- they would say, oh, he's going to sign an executive order to do X. And at the end of the day, when we finally got the paper, it said, an executive order to study whether X is feasible.

Let's first see what the president actually does before we get spun up about the national emergency. But, yes, of course, it will interesting to see whether you could do court challenges. You could do a challenge in Congress, by the way.

Congress has never rolled back a presidential national emergency. But there are a couple different options. The Republicans that I have talked who are unhappy about this are worried that he's going to try to reprogram disaster relief money, either in Florida or in Texas.

The Texas governor, both senators wrote to him in mid-January, I think a day after he said he wouldn't declare a national emergency, to say please don't move disaster relief money around. But that is enough.

TAPPER: They said, please don't move Texas' disaster relief money.

KNOX: Sure. Yes.

TAPPER: I don't think they were voicing concern about other states.

So, the polling -- you're the pollster at the table. The polling shows -- CNN polling -- most Americans, 66 percent, are opposed to using a national emergency in order to build a border wall, 31 percent support it.

Does this carry significant risk? KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It takes an unpopular

policy and implements it in the least popular way.

And it seems as though the president continues to take an issue, border security, where he could have the upper hand, and find the least effective way to try to pursue his policy goals.

I mean, I say least effective. He meant ultimately get some fencing put up along the border at the end of this. It's likely that an attempt at actually building a wall with money not allocated by Congress will get tied up in courts.

But what he's done is taken a situation which was actually beginning to trend in his favor -- his poll numbers have jumped significantly in the last week or two since the round one of the shutdown ended -- a situation that was moving in his direction.

By voting to reopen the government and continuing to move forward even with something that was only going to give him $1.3 billion, it would be for fencing, I think he should just take that win. I think by opening the Pandora's box of saying, well, hey, the last person who cares about Article 1, turn out the lights, like, by moving in this direction toward a national emergency, you're going about trying to get your wall in a way that sets a bad precedent and it's just not popular with voters.

TAPPER: Well, take a listen to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, just a few minutes ago.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he has all the legal authority in the world to do this, and I will stand behind him.


TAPPER: I'm not sure, but I think that that's a change of position in terms of the national emergency.

No, it's not?

KNOX: No, he's been calling -- he's been calling on the president to declare a national emergency

TAPPER: OK. I stand corrected.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Silly for me to try to introduce a fact here on policy, but is this actually a national emergency?

It just doesn't feel as if there is something happening that is imminent, that the country is in dire threat, and we have to do something that is extraordinary in order to try to fix it, like we would after 9/11, let's say, or some huge natural disaster. I spent a big chunk of today at John Dingell's funeral today, where there were members of Congress, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton. I mean, there were all these sort of bipartisan people sitting there talking about governing over the course of this man's long life.

And it just seems like we are -- we're going through extraordinary leaps and bounds in order to justify something absolutely outrageous that the current president of the United States wants to do it, and it's not an emergency.

TAPPER: Well, whether or not you think it's an emergency, certainly, spending money and months debating whether or not you're going to declare an emergency undermines the case.

I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin right now.

Jeffrey, just as a legal matter, is Chairman Graham correct? Does the president have the authority? And what would the challenge be in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm going to give you a ringing I don't know, because I don't think anyone knows at this point.

The National Emergencies Act of 1976 has been invoked about 40 times since then, by every president since the '70s, a few times by each one, never in a controversial way, never in a way that Congress objected to, either explicitly or implicitly.

Here, you have a situation where Congress has debated the very expenditure at issue and said, no, we're not going to spend this money. And the president says, I'm going to do it anyway. At least, that's what it appears.

And this is a bedrock constitutional issue. Article 1 of the Constitution says, the power of the purse, the power to decide how the government's money is spent, belongs to the legislative branch of government, not to the executive.

[16:15:04] Now, this law is a narrow exception. But the Supreme Court has never defined what an emergency is. And the Supreme Court has never defined the scope of the president's powers because this has always been uncontroversial in terms of the invocation of its use.

There certainly will be a legal challenge. Frankly, I doubt that the members of Congress will be successful in challenging it. The courts are very reluctant to allow lawsuits of one branch against the other.

But if some land owner, whose land is taken with this money, that person could certainly bring a lawsuit and somehow the courts are going to have to deal with this and, you know, I don't know what the answer will be once the courts engage with this.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Mick Mulvaney, White House acting chief of staff, told me a couple of months ago that he was confident that they had the authority to do this. So, behind the scenes at the White House, there have been a number of individuals, including Mulvaney, saying go ahead and do this. This is how we can get your wall.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And they've been working on ways through this. And let's remember that Mick Mulvaney is now chief of staff, that he used to be the budget director. So, he's pretty familiar with this kind of staff, and he's also been in Congress.

So, the White House has been preparing -- this isn't just something that the president decided today. They've been preparing essentially for three weeks, since the president first signed that short-term spending bill, to declare some kind of a national emergency or take executive action, and I think that's an important distinction to make here because Sarah Sanders makes it in her statement. She says that the president is prepared to take executive action, including a national emergency.

So, this isn't just going to be the president declaring a national emergency and that's the end of it. It's going to take multiple steps. He could do other points of executive action, because there is actually a lot of money, about $1 billion that the White House thinks they can get ahold of pretty easily, without any big legal challenges, that they can put toward funding the border wall.

So, they think they have a lot of options here. I think that's getting lost in the suddenness of the president not signing this bill today. But the White House has been preparing for this for several weeks now.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Jake, as my family members like to say, the president wrote a check his behind can't catch. Now, everybody else is trying to figure out how to help him do that. If you were to call 911 and tell them three weeks from now, somebody is going to break in my house, I don't think they would send police to your house because that's not an actual emergency.

TAPPER: Where does the White House go from here? Do they declare this emergency today, tomorrow? Where do you think this go?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: Well, that's a really good question. What are they going to invoke? What are they going to actually set in motion? I don't -- I don't have the answer to that.

You know, national emergency can take a lot of forms. As I've said before, we've been burned before, saying that they're going to do X because we're told they're going to do X, only to discover that they're going to study X. Let's see what they invoke. I don't know where they go from here. They would have to start looking -- they've been looking at money and they've been looking at legal authority. I don't know if they've reached conclusions on either of those. Kaitlan was referring to $1 billion, I don't know what they're going to try to reprogram if anything.

TAPPER: And, Kristen, sources tell CNN that the president was planning on spinning this deal as a win. He made calls to some of his friends in conservative media, such as Sean Hannity at Fox News. And here's how Hannity, who originally called this deal a garbage deal, here is how he characterized it last night.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This garbage deal, $1.37 billion not enough but it will keep the ball and the project moving along.


TAPPER: So there was a, you know --


TAPPER: -- silver linings kind of thing going on on Fox News last night. But President Trump apparently today back to the garbage deal part of that sentence.

ANDERSON: Yes. I mean, which is befuddling and implies that it's surprising. If he just stuck with that original strategy. I think, we have sat at this table and I have said before that Nancy Pelosi is not going to give him a ton of money, certainly not for like a concrete wall, but he'll get something for border security and he'll be able to build some fencing and he can call that a win, and she can call it a win and everyone can go home.

And that's where this was headed, until this national emergency got thrown back into the mix, which takes it potentially from a good moment for the president, whose numbers have been trending in the right direction last week --


ANDERSON: -- and throws it all back into chaos.

TAPPER: And I would like to point out also that today, four notable freshmen House Democrats put out a joint system saying that they're not going to vote for this compromise package. Signing on here, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, four of the more progressive freshman members. They wrote: The Department of Homeland Security does not deserve an increase in funding, and that is why we intend to vote no on this funding package.

So, there was an opportunity here for some Republicans to say, the progressives hate this bill, we can declare at least something of a victory.

SIMMONS: Sure. And the president who was more disciplined, who can sort of stay on message and figure out -- the message he started at the State of the Union, the message he continued in El Paso. He can continue into that today and try to divide the Democratic Caucus. Instead what he's doing is uniting Democrats against the more outrageous thing that it is that he wants to do. KNOX: Can we back up a second? If this national emergency really had

the characteristics of a national emergency, Republicans used to have control of White House and all of Congress and yet this didn't happen. One of the reasons why is there's not enough Republican support for it. They could have done this any time in the last two years.

TAPPER: The wall or the emergency declaration?

KNOX: The wall. They could have put the spending Republicans used to have control of White House and all of Congress.

[16:20:02] And yet this didn't happen. One of the reasons why is there's not enough Republican support for it. They could have done this any time in the last two years.

TAPPER: The wall or the emergency declaration?

KNOX: The wall.


KNOX: They could have put this -- they could have put the spending package together. They could have put a $25 billion spending package together for the entire wall if they wanted to.

TAPPER: Now, what Mick Mulvaney would say, if he were sitting here, just to play devil's advocate, is you need a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Democrats didn't have that. Now, I know that that's not true. There are Republicans in Congress, including most of the border, district and border state Republicans who didn't support the wall.

KNOX: Well, do you remember how they got the tax bill through? A procedure called reconciliation, which does not require a filibuster- proof majority. My sense is there would have been a path that way. There would have been a path that way.

TAPPER: Let point out. Of the 17 conference committee members who worked really hard on this compromise, only one of them did not sign the final agreement. That is Republican Congressman Tom Graves.

Just after midnight last night, Graves tweeted a picture of the bill's 1,000-plus pages all printed out. And he said, quote: With 30 minutes notice I was allowed one hour to review and had to make a choice. I could not sign off.

Welcome to Congress, by the way. President Trump said just last year, he wouldn't sign another giant piece of rush legislation like this one. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It's only hours old.


TAPPER: It's a little different but same principle applies.

COLLINS: A little but not that much. That's why people in the White House are having flashbacks to that, when the president nearly did not sign that bill. And the only reason he signed that bill is because the defense secretary at the time, James Mattis, convinced him there was so much money in it for the military that he could get the wall money later.

And that's why the president has been complaining about Republicans recently, namely Paul Ryan, saying that he didn't get the wall money when he could have and he's frustrated with this. We're seeing a repeat of that today when the president was close to not signing this bill, complaining about Senator Shelby in particular, Senate chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who has been really negotiating, talking with the White House as they've been going over this the last three weeks. And the president was complaining today that he thought the Republicans on this committee got outplayed by the Democrats and that the president thinks he's such a dealmaker that if he had been involved, he could have gotten a higher number for fencing in this deal.

He has been complaining about that today, he's been listening to conservatives like Laura Ingraham on Fox News, who says --- pointing out what the president said, that he wouldn't sign a bill that was this long, that he hadn't had a time to look at again and saying that he's going to do it. So, he's been listening to that backlash and that's why you saw the White House phoning all those people, trying to get them to spin it in a more positive way and pointing out what they could say was a win.

TAPPER: All right. We have some breaking news right now. Let me go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what's going on up there?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they just passed the bill out of the Senate to keep the government open, 83-16 vote, overwhelmingly, easily surpassing veto-proof majority which is 67 votes. They got 83 votes in the affirmative to send this to the House. The House then will vote tonight.

We expect a bipartisan majority to support this, and to the president's desk, and ending this shutdown threat that led to the 35- day government shutdown, longest in history, and sparing those 800,000 federal workers and employees, government contractors the risk of furlough that they suffered during the early part of this year. But after the Senate acted, expect the House to act, and now, the president plans to declare a national emergency. He will sign this into law -- Jake.

TAPPER: If he does, in fact, sign it. There's always that suspense element. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:00] TAPPER: Breaking news this hour, moments ago, the United States Senate passing a spending bill to avoid yet another partial federal government shutdown. That legislation now goes to the House of Representatives. After a day of a lot of drama, and back and forth, the White House now says that President Trump will sign this legislation.

But perhaps more consequentially, the president will also declare a national emergency in an attempt to get enough funding to build his border wall.

We have a real question here when it comes to Republicans in the Senate. A lot of them have been talking about whether or not they support such a thing in national emergency and saying they don't because of the precedent, because of the divide in the caucus, because they don't know if it's going to be able to pass through the Senate, especially with the veto-proof majority or not.

Take a listen to Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana who was just asked about the president's call for national emergency to be declared.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: It's not my preferred choice but I don't think the world will spin off its axis.


TAPPER: Is that pretty much where you think Senate Republicans are going to land?

ANDERSON: Yes, 100 percent.

And this is why -- you know, before the break we were talking about how the national emergency is the least popular way to implement this policy. But it also wouldn't surprise me if a week from now, we're looking at public polling data that actually shows the national emergency strategy being five to ten points more popular. And part of that is because once Trump come outside and is forcefully behind something, to the extent that there are Republicans who were mushy at first, they'll come home, and I think especially in the Senate, in Congress, Republicans just don't want to have to deal with this anymore.

And to the extent that this is something where it's Trump and perhaps the courts dealing with it rather than them, I can see them saying, fine, let's go ahead and take it there.

COLLINS: That's what we're seeing here, how much Senate Republicans wanted to avoid another shutdown. But even though they're against the president declaring a national emergency, they're still voting for this bill. I mean, you saw that margin there.

And I think obviously the concern for these Republicans about the president doing such, is that if there's a Democratic president next and they declare a national emergency on climate change, on guns, on whatever. That they're going to have to look back at the president declaring a national emergency for this. So, they're the ones who have been saying for years when President Obama was in office that any of his executive orders were an overreach of his power, an abuse of his power.