Amash: ‘Huge mistake’ for Trump to declare national emergency

Amash and Trump
Justin Amash (left) and Donald Trump (right)

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) sees an increasing likelihood that President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to secure funding for a wall at the Mexican border.

Speaking with the Advance on Thursday afternoon, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District said that based on his recent conversations with legislative leaders, it remains unlikely that either Trump or Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate are likely to back down. Democrats now run the U.S. House, while the GOP remains in control of the upper chamber.

The federal government has now partially been shut down since Dec. 22. Many federal workers will go without their first paychecks on Friday.

A decision by Trump to declare a national emergency — which the president said Thursday he is prepared to do if Democrats don’t give in — would go around Congress by using military funding for his long-talked about barrier. On Tuesday, Trump gave a nationally televised address making the case for wall funding.

That makes for something of a nightmare scenario for Amash.

“I think it would be a huge mistake for him to [declare a national emergency] and it would be a massive executive overreach,” Amash said. “There’s no national emergency. Obviously, there are problems at the border, but to declare a national emergency — and assume all sorts of powers — would be way beyond what I think is authorized.”

On that front, however, Amash is somewhat alone. A Huffington Post report from Wednesday — in which the congressman was quoted — highlighted several other congressional Republicans who largely either supported Trump’s proposal for a national emergency to build a wall, or weren’t totally opposed to it.

“I would prefer the legislative option,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who, like Amash, aligns himself with the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “But if he keeps on trying and trying and trying, and the other side is so intractable that they refuse to discuss it, what other option do you have?”

The Advance requested interviews from each of Michigan’s seven Republican congressional members this week to discuss the ongoing shutdown and the new term, but only Amash’s office, so far, has responded to the request.

Amash said he’s heard from a number of constituents in his district, which includes parts of Kent, Ionia, Barry and Calhoun counties. While many have said they want to see some sort of resolution to the shutdown, others have told him that they want to see added security at the border and the shutdown is a good way to go about that.

“I’m getting a mixed response,” he said.

The Republican said he’s not opposed, at least in principle, to some sort of added fencing and additional security at the southern border. Amash added that Trump’s ask of $5.7 billion is relatively small compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars that are often lumped into spending bills that the fifth-term congressman frequently votes against.

When asked what it would take for him to vote to reopen the government, Amash said, “If [congressional leaders] want my vote, then they’re going to have to open the process, allow for amendments to come to the floor in an open deliberative way. Then if the legislation can be crafted so it’s more in line with my views of how our government should spend money, then I would support that.”

Nancy Pelosi

He’s now serving in the minority for the first time since getting elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Amash was a frequent and vocal critic of the two Republican House speakers he served under, John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

While acknowledging that he will likely disagree on politics and policy with new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), he’s hopeful she will guide the legislative body toward a more open process, which Amash said he believes could go a long way toward avoiding future shutdowns.

“The speaker’s main job is process … [and] to make sure the place runs smoothly,” Amash said. “And if the speaker can’t do that, then the speaker isn’t good, regardless of the policies of the speaker. It’s hard to do worse than Paul Ryan.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.


  1. Hes the best congressmen by far not afraid of the truth and FACTS proud to have him represent my district!! believe he honestly believes in a transparent government. NO i dont always agree but know where he stands !


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