The measure, which avoids another government shutdown, includes only $1.375 billion for border barriers or fencing, far less than the $5.7 billion that US President Trump has demanded for his long-sought border wall.

President Donald Trump speaks at the Major County Sheriffs and Major Cities Chiefs Association Joint Conference in Washington, Wednesday, February 13, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks at the Major County Sheriffs and Major Cities Chiefs Association Joint Conference in Washington, Wednesday, February 13, 2019. (AP)

The Senate resoundingly approved a border security compromise Thursday that ignores most of President Donald Trump's demands for building a wall with Mexico but would prevent a new government shutdown. 

The White House said Trump would sign it but then declare a national emergency and perhaps invoke other executive powers to try to shift money to wall-building from elsewhere in the federal budget.

Trump will also sign off on a congressional bill that would authorise a much smaller amount of wall money than the president had been demanding.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter that Trump would deliver on his signature campaign promise through executive actions, including an emergency declaration, even as his declaration is highly likely to result in legal challenges. 

"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," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

"The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country," Sanders said. 

An emergency declaration to shift funding from other federal priorities to the border is expected to face a swift legal challenge.

TRT World's Jon Brain has more.

"No crisis at the border"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the border he's making an "end run around Congress."

Pelosi said there's no crisis at the border with Mexico that requires a national emergency order.

She said if Trump invokes an emergency declaration it should be met with "great unease and dismay" as an overreach of executive authority.

Trump is prepared to invoke a national emergency to build the US-Mexico wall after Congress refused to provide $5.7 billion he was demanding as part of a budget compromise to avoid a federal shutdown.

The US president indicated he would sign the bill to keep the government running past Friday's deadline but also declare the emergency.

Declaring such an emergency, a rare step, would free Trump to seek to redirect federal funds from elsewhere to help pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

The Senate approved the border security deal by a lopsided 83-16 tally. The House planned to vote on passage in the evening.

The compromise package funds until September 30 the 25 percent of the government whose operations would lapse if the bill is not signed by Trump by the midnight Friday deadline.

Trump had demanded $5.7 billion to start building more than 200 miles of wall. The bipartisan agreement provides under $1.4 billion — enough for just 55 miles of new barriers and fencing.

White House aides and congressional Republicans have suggested Trump might tap funds targeted for military construction, disaster relief and counter-drug efforts.

In a surprising development, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support Trump's emergency declaration. That was a turnabout for the Kentucky Republican, who like Democrats and many Republicans has until now opposed such action.

"Lawless act" 

In unusually harsh language, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday that if Trump declares a national emergency to build a border wall, he would be committing "a lawless act" and warned that Congress would take steps to stop him.

"Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. 

He added that Trump would be committing "naked contempt for the rule of law and congressional authority."

No word "wall"

Notably, the word "wall" — which fuelled many a chant at Trump campaign events and then his rallies as president — does not appear once in the compromise's 1,768 pages of legislation and explanatory materials. "Barriers" and "fencing" are the nouns of choice.

The pact would also squeeze funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in an attempt to pressure the agency to gradually detain fewer immigrants. To the dismay of Democrats, it would still leave an agency many of them consider abusive holding thousands of more immigrants than it did last year.

The measure contains money for improved surveillance equipment, more customs agents and humanitarian aid for detained immigrants. The overall bill also provides $330 billion to finance dozens of federal programs for the rest of the year, one-fourth of federal agency budgets.

Facing opposition from Trump, Democrats lost their bid to include language giving federal contractors back pay for wages lost during the last shutdown. Government workers have been paid for the time they were furloughed or worked without pay checks.

Also omitted was an extension of the Violence Against Women Act. Democrats say this will give them a chance later this year to add protections for transgender people to that law.

An emergency declaration and other assertions of executive power to access money are expected to prompt lawsuits and potential votes in Congress aimed at blocking Trump from diverting money, which could conceivably reach billions of dollars.

Meeting with reporters, House Speaker Pelosi, warned that legal action aimed at blocking Trump's emergency declaration was an option, but she stopped short of saying it would definitely occur.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies