Trump Threatens Veto Of Spending Bill
NOEL KING, HOST:
Last night, the Senate approved the omnibus spending bill. It didn't clear the Senate until after midnight, and it appears it may not last long. This morning, President Trump said on Twitter that he's considering vetoing the bill. NPR's Tamara Keith is with us now from the White House. Hey, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So do you think the president is really going to veto this bill?
KEITH: I have no idea. And, you know, if you had asked me - oh, I don't know - six hours ago, I would've said absolutely the president is going to sign the bill because his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said exactly that in a briefing. He said, let's cut to the chase. Is the president going to sign the bill - yes. Why - because it funds his priorities.
The vice president yesterday, in a speech in New Hampshire, touted the bill as the president keeping promises - a bill full of spending on things that President Trump promised to spend money on. And now it's just not clear. The White House has been radio silent. The tweet just stands out there alone as we try to find answers. And over on Capitol Hill, they are pretty stunned by this.
KING: Are they really? What are you hearing?
KEITH: (Laughter) Well, they were not expecting this. Certainly, leadership was not expecting this. This was supposed to be a done deal. The White House had given assurances that the president was going to sign this. And in fact, you know, once the bill passed, Congress went home for two weeks (laughter). The...
KING: Done and dusted, right?
KEITH: Yeah. I mean, the spring recess has begun. And they've literally gotten on airplanes and gone home, or they've gone, you know - they're beginning trips overseas. So if the president were to veto this, it's not sure what would happen - not clear how they would get out of it.
KING: Well, if he does veto it, what - does that mean that the government shuts down?
KEITH: Yeah. So we are facing the threat of a government shutdown at midnight tonight if this bill or some sort of short-term, stopgap spending measure isn't signed. And at the moment, there are not enough members of Congress to pass a stopgap spending bill. They could probably find a way through unanimous consent or some other thing. But, you know, the clock is very much ticking on a partial government shutdown.
KING: Well, here's how President Trump explained his reasoning on Twitter. He wrote, I'm 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. Is that true that DACA recipients aren't even mentioned in this bill?
KEITH: Well, there is not a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Trump moved to end. Now, it is currently held up in court, which means the program - which was supposed to end under the president's plan earlier this month - has not ended. It is continuing to go on. And as for the wall, yeah, the wall is not funded at $25 billion as President Trump had wanted. But the White House and Vice President Pence made it pretty clear that they felt like this was a good step, and that the $1.6 billion or so that's in there for wall funding is as much as the Customs and Border Protection and ICE had asked for and could spend in this year.
KING: Democratic responses have been pretty furious this morning. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont says this is not making America great again. Representative Tim Ryan said, let's not forget that you ended DACA and torpedoed every possible bipartisan fix. This is on you. What do you think? Do they have a point?
KEITH: Well - and Senator Tim Kaine is calling it "The Art Of The Deal" wrecker.
KING: Oh, dear (laughter).
KEITH: Well, you know, which is inevitable, right?
KING: Yeah (laughter).
KEITH: So Democrats do have a point in that this legislation passed in a bipartisan fashion. Now, there are a lot of concerns with the legislation on both sides of the aisle, including that it spends a whole ton of money. That comes from the Republican side of the aisle. Democrats are not happy that it doesn't have a fix for DACA in there, but it passed on a...
KEITH: ...Bipartisan basis. So if the president vetoes it, then it's on the president.
KING: It's not likely - today's move by the president - today's tweet by the president - it's not likely going to help find a bipartisan solution to immigration, is it?
KEITH: No, nor is it likely to keep the government funded (laughter). But that's something that - sometimes tweets are just tweets. And then the president does something entirely different. And I imagine there are a lot of people at this moment trying to persuade him to sign the bill.
KING: Sometimes tweets are just tweets. NPR's Tamara Keith with some wisdom from the White House. Thanks, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.