U.S. President Donald Trump stands next to Congress' $1.3 trillion spending bill during a ceremony in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington. U.S., March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Donald Trump gestures towards the $1.3tn spending bill at his briefing in the White house on Friday © Reuters

President Donald Trump ended a last-minute panic over a government shutdown by approving a $1.3tn spending bill that he had toyed with vetoing hours before funding was due to expire.

Mr Trump added to a tumultuous week by signing the bill on Friday after provoking unexpected drama by saying he was “considering” rejecting it despite his own White House’s support for it.

The president declared he would not sign such a costly 2,000-page bill again, insisting that no-one had time to read it. He called for radical reforms to the way spending is approved.

The legislation, which was crafted by both Republicans and Democrats, will ensure the government remains funded through to the end of September. It includes an $80bn increase in defence spending as well as more money for border security, infrastructure and school safety.

“As a matter of national security I have signed this omnibus budget bill,” Mr Trump said at the White House. “There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill.”

Sprawling spending bills, put together hurriedly and packed with money for conservative and liberal priorities to secure votes from both parties, are a Washington staple.

Mr Trump said: “I say to Congress I will never sign another bill like this again. Not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old.”

He said “we have to get rid of” a so-called filibuster rule that requires 60 Senate votes to pass legislation and currently gives Democrats negotiating clout. He called for the threshold to be reduced to 51 votes and for a presidential line-item veto on spending.

Mr Trump’s earlier veto threat had sparked dismay on Capitol Hill as it raised the prospect of a government shutdown at midnight on Friday.

The president tweeted that he was mulling an extraordinary veto because the spending bill did not help unauthorised immigrants known as “Dreamers”, whose fate divides the parties.

Mr Trump made a lot of “empty threats”, said Stephen Myrow, a former George W Bush administration official now at Beacon Policy Advisors. “He also likes it when everyone comes in and begs, including the Republican establishment. This is a way for him to demonstrate that he is begrudgingly doing this.”

Mr Trump’s veto threat came at the end of a week in which his decision to impose tariffs on Chinese imports roiled world markets, he replaced his national security adviser with John Bolton, and his top lawyer handling the Russia probe resigned.

Mr Trump’s words prompted pleading for the bill from John Cornyn, a senior Republican. Democrats told the president he had created a crisis for Dreamers by moving to cancel a programme known as Daca that had protected some from deportation.

Mr Trump tweeted: “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.”

Fiscal conservatives have been critical of the extra borrowing the bill entails. One conservative, Senator Rand Paul, tweeted: “I agree @realDonaldTrump should veto this sad excuse for legislation because it’s $1.3tn in spending that (almost) no one read.”

The compromise bill passed in the Senate by 65 to 32 early on Friday morning after the House backed the same measures. Donald Trump had to sign the bill before midnight to avoid a shutdown.

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, said on Thursday it was ironic that Congress passed the bill shortly after the trade measures against China. “I have been a huge supporter for tariffs, but I find it ironic that on the day that we actually sign the [Article 301 investigation into China’s practices] we pass a bill that is going to create these deficits and China is the financier of last resort for those deficits,” Mr Bannon said.

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