Trump Agrees to Sign Compromise Funding Package

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By The Maritime Executive 02-14-2019 04:50:33

On Thursday, the Senate passed a compromise package to fully fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. President Donald Trump has agreed to sign it, ending a standoff that would have resulted in a second government shutdown beginning Friday. Among many other outcomes, the announcement means that active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard will likely continue to receive pay, along with more than 700,000 other federal employees whose paychecks would have been jeopardized by another shutdown. 

Coast Guard servicemembers missed their January 15 paycheck due to a 35-day lapse in appropriations, the longest in U.S. history. At the end of January, the White House and Congress reached a temporary agreement to fully fund the government through February 15, and they provided back pay for affected employees; however, with the prospect of another shutdown looming, Coast Guard families and advocates have called on Congress to provide more certainty that the pay gap - the first ever for U.S. military servicemembers - will not be repeated. 

Port funding

The package passed by the Senate includes significant funding for deep-sea ports, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. Among other measures, it provides $290 million for MARAD's Port Infrastructure Development Program; a significant allocation for USDOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program; a large increase in Customs and Border Protection personnel; a $12 million increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants program; and an increase in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Navigation, Observations and Positioning program.

Funding the wall

The president had previously signalled that he was "not happy" with the compromise bill, which provides about $1.4 billion for border security - less than the amount his political opponents offered in December, before the shutdown. Trump has previously insisted on at least $5.7 billion for a border wall, and announced Thursday that he intends to make up the gap by declaring a national emergency and redirecting previous, unspent appropriations. The action will likely be met with multiple legal challenges.  

The funds diverted under a declaration of national emergency could include general military construction funds, along with disaster recovery and flood control appropriations from the 2017 hurricane season. Congress appropriated these funds for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the White House may advance a legal claim that they are subject to reuse at the president's sole discretion under the terms of the 1976 National Emergencies Act. The act grants the president broad powers for redeploying military funding in the event of a crisis.

Three sources familiar with the White House's plans told Politico that the effort could draw funds from disaster relief and flood control appropriations intended for Puerto Rico and California. For these two areas alone, the Corps of Engineers has planned an allocation of $5 billion for Long Term Disaster Recovery Investment construction projects. 

The president's announcement met opposition from Democratic leadership and from many members of the president's party, particularly in the Senate. Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey all voiced objections; however, Senate majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said Thursday that the conference would support Trump's decision.