President Trump's National Emergency Is a Ploy to Avoid Admitting Defeat on the Wall
Mexico refused to pay for it. Congress wouldn’t shell out, either. So President Donald Trump capped a two-month battle over his border wall by deciding to go it alone.
The White House announced Thursday that Trump would sign a spending bill to avoid a second government shutdown over his signature campaign promise, then declare a national emergency in a bid to construct the wall.
“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,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.
The unprecedented move allows Trump to signal to supporters that he’s still fighting to deliver the wall, while also sidestepping a second politically damaging shutdown just weeks after a standoff that shuttered the government for 35 days, cost the economy some $11 billion and briefly dented the President’s approval ratings. But the risky maneuver opens a Pandora’s box of future challenges, both in the courts and in Congress. And Republicans fear it raises the prospect of a future Democratic President wielding national emergencies as a tool to bypass Congress on liberal political priorities like climate change and gun restrictions.
Some senior Republicans were reluctant to publicly endorse Trump’s use of emergency powers to reprogram dollars Congress had intended for other purposes. Others noted polling data showing the last shutdown was a political loser for the GOP. Senior Republican Senate aides described the mood as filled with “quiet fury.”
“I think it’s a mistake on the president’s part,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, adding that National Emergencies Act applies to natural disasters or other catastrophic events. “For the President to repurpose billions of dollars that Congress has appropriated for other purposes that he has previously signed into law,” Collins added, “strikes me as undermining the appropriations process, the role of Congress, and of being of dubious constitutionality.”
Other GOP lawmakers were reserving judgment until after Trump signs the bill and acts on his own. West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito supports Trump’s move but said she’s “concerned” about the precedent it could set and wanted to see “what he does and when he does it.” Still other lawmakers suggested to McConnell that he go along with Trump’s invocation of an emergency, because it faces an almost guaranteed challenge from Democrats.
Reversing the emergency declaration requires a simple majority in both the House and Senate. A Democratic leadership aide said a challenge is likely. But Pelosi’s office is waiting to see the details of the declaration before filing a resolution rejecting the action, which is likely to sail through the Democratic-controlled chamber.
Senate Republicans, who hold 53 of 100 seats, have previously warned Trump that he did not have 51 votes there either. If Senate Democrats vote against the emergency declaration in unison, it would only take four Republican defections to reject Trump’s move. On Thursday more than double that number of GOP Senators opposed the spending bill. And due to Senate rules, McConnell would be powerless to prevent the resolution from coming to the floor. (If Trump, as expected, declined to sign the resolution, a two-thirds majority in each House would be required to override him.)
Brian Bennett and Philip Elliott