WASHINGTON — The feud over funding the federal government shifted Friday into another fight over President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern U.S. border.
As Trump reached a last-minute deal with the divided U.S. Congress to avert another government shutdown, the president announced Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, circumventing the legislative branch to secure border wall funding.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden.
“I’m going to be signing a national emergency, and it’s been signed many times before. It’s been signed by other presidents. From 1977 or so, it gave the presidents the power. There’s rarely been a problem. They signed it, nobody cares, I guess they weren’t very exciting.”
Trump’s declaration comes as he failed to secure congressional support for more than $5 billion he wanted for border security in a broader spending bill that funds a variety of federal agencies.
His unilateral move to declare a national emergency is based on the 1976 National Emergencies Act. It’s been used 60 times since the law was passed, including after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when President George W. Bush sought additional powers to organize the military.
But Trump’s critics assailed the move, accusing the president of manufacturing a crisis and vowing a fight in the courts.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who believes a bipartisan agreement on border security is needed, said Trump’s declaration is a sharp contrast from historical precedence.
“The President’s decision undermines our Constitution’s checks and balances by diverting funds Congress dedicated to other vital programs, including funding for our military. In the past, national emergencies have been invoked during the most immediate and dire threats to our homeland – like September 11th – and it should not be used to fulfill a campaign promise.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) said there “is no national emergency” and slammed Trump for his “racist and harmful policies:
“This President continues to try and go around the checks and balances in our government to push his racist and harmful policies,” she said. “There is no national emergency and we in Congress must stop this declaration. Americans are facing dire needs with issues such wages, poverty, and healthcare, yet Trump is fixated on vilifying and terrorizing immigrants who want to come to this country for a better life. Enough is enough. I will work with my colleagues to do everything in our power to halt this declaration.”
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday in a joint statement that Trump’s actions “clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Trump fueled his critics by suggesting during his press conference that he didn’t “need” to issue the declaration, as he also emphasized that the wall is necessary to block drugs, criminals and gang members from entering the United States.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time; I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said.
Congress does have the power to end a national emergency declaration from a president, but it would likely mean mustering a veto-proof majority in both chambers, a steep climb in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lauded the deal to keep the government open and praised the president for his wall plan.
“Today the U.S. Senate delivered another down payment on President Trump’s commitment to securing our nation’s borders and keeping American communities safe,” said McConnell. “In addition to providing new funds for miles of new border barriers, it completes all seven outstanding appropriations bills to fund our government.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) continued to blame Democrats for the fight over the wall and said that’s why he voted against the continuing resolution.
“Unfortunately, over the last three weeks of negotiations Democrats have shown an unwillingness to support measures that properly secure the border, and as a result, the bill voted on tonight falls short of meeting that goal. That is why I voted no,” he said.
Still, the president faces some opposition within his own party.
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.), a libertarian-leaning legislator who told the Advance last month is would be a “huge mistake” for Trump to declare a national emergency, reiterated that sentiment today.
“A national emergency declaration for a non-emergency is void,” Amash said on Twitter. “A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act.”
A national emergency declaration for a non-emergency is void. A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 15, 2019
Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said the declaration would “undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process.”
She warned that it “sets a bad precedent for future Presidents—both Democratic and Republican—who might seek to use this same maneuver to circumvent Congress to advance their policy goals. It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has also warned that the move could lead future presidents to pursue their own agendas by using emergency declarations.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Rubio said in a statement.
Another president “may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” he said, referring to Democrats’ proposal to combat climate change.
Some other Senate Republicans appeared initially wary of Trump’s move.
“I made no secret of the fact that I hoped the president would choose to avoid unilateral action and work with Congress on a legislative solution to secure the border,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). “My staff and I are reviewing the president’s declaration and its implications very closely.”