The months-long battle over a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall is set to escalate dramatically when President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown Trump mulling 60-day delay for China tariff deadline Contractor back pay not included in shutdown deal MORE declares a national emergency.
Talk of an emergency declaration immediately sparked division, and in some cases outright rebuke, from the GOP senators Trump will need on his side.
Senators on both sides of the aisle are steeling themselves for an entrenched, messy fight, with the declaration likely serving as an opening salvo in a high-profile political and legal battle.
Several Republicans panned talk of Trump moving forward with the plan, an option he has kept on the table as conservative allies fume that the deal to fund the government included only $1.375 billion for border barriers, instead of the $5.7 billion for a wall sought by the president.
“I believe it’s a mistake on the president’s part. I don’t believe that the National Emergencies Act contemplated a president repurposing billions of dollars outside of the normal appropriations process,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt GOP senators offer praise for Klobuchar: ‘She’s the whole package’ Overnight Defense: Gillibrand offers bill to let transgender troops serve | Pentagon ready to protect US personnel in Venezuela | Dems revive fight with Trump over Saudis MORE (R-Maine), characterizing Trump’s decision was “of dubious constitutionality.”
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees Senate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks Senate rejects bid to block future national monuments in Utah MORE (R-Alaska) added that she didn’t “think that this is a matter that should be declared a national emergency.”
Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick Manchin to vote for Trump’s attorney general pick Paul to oppose Trump’s AG nominee MORE (R-Ky.), who has worked to cultivate a friendship with Trump, also characterized himself of “not in favor of operating government through emergency,” and insinuated that the move could violate the Constitution.
Trump has long floated that he might declare a national emergency to construct a U.S.-Mexico border wall if Congress wasn’t able to come up with a funding deal, despite pushback from top leaders on Capitol Hill.
The White House was reportedly exploring other ways Trump could try to circumvent Congress to get more money without declaring a national emergency.
But top GOP allies on Capitol Hill warned that would not get Trump to $5.7 billion, and signaled they believed he would ultimately carry out the controversial move.
Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOn The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips ‘stingy’ Democrats, but says shutdown would be ‘terrible’ | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks Congress hits gas on border deal McCarthy blames 2018 House losses on GOP’s health care stance: report MORE (R-N.C.), who is close with Trump, said Wednesday that it “would be political suicide” for Trump to sign the funding bill without taking executive action to reroute funds toward the wall.
“I think there’s very little political liability from conservatives,” Meadows said about Trump coupling his signature of the bill with executive action.
In a boost for the president, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellContractor back pay not included in shutdown deal House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales On The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips ‘stingy’ Democrats, but says shutdown would be ‘terrible’ | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks MORE (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor he would support Trump’s decision, a political U-turn from weeks ago when McConnell warned against an emergency declaration.
“I’m for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling he should declare a national emergency,” he said two weeks ago during a press conference with reporters.
Many congressional Republicans said they were taking a wait-and-see approach, and that their support or opposition would depend on the specifics of Trump’s declaration.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees Webb: Presidential hopefuls underline Democrats’ strong leftward drift MORE (R-Texas), who is close to McConnell, said he wanted to see what form Trump’s action took but noted that he previously raised concerns about executive action.
“My concerns about an emergency declaration were the precedent that’s going to be established,” Cornyn said. “I also thought it would not be a practical solution because there will be a lawsuit filed immediately.”
Cornyn noted that McConnell’s floor announcement came after hours of back-and-forth talks between the GOP leader’s office and the White House about whether the president would sign the funding bill and under what circumstances.
Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonUSCIS child marriage report: Laws that do not value girls are baked into our system March tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Coalition urges Congress to pass bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wis.) also shrugged off McConnell’s decision to support the emergency declaration, saying, “That’s obviously one of the things the leader believes he has to do to get the president to support” the funding bill.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio discovers Native American heritage through TV show Christie: Trump doesn’t give nicknames to people he respects Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation MORE (R-Fla.) said his stance will depended on the “structure” of the declaration but added that he generally doesn’t “think that’s a good approach, but we’ll have to deal with it.”
Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyLawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown On The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips ‘stingy’ Democrats, but says shutdown would be ‘terrible’ | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks Congress hits gas on border deal MORE (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and was among the four legislators who finalized the funding deal, gave full-throated support to the move.
“I’m not concerned because I think the president is on the right track to secure the border, which I share. I like what he’s doing,” Shelby said, adding that presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt have expanded the power of the executive.
The decision for Trump to declare a national emergency left lawmakers in a familiar pattern: Being asked to react to something the president will do while largely in the dark themselves about the details.
And news of the president’s plans came at an already chaotic moment in the Capitol, as police officers were escorting senators through the basement to elevators that would take them to Senate floor to vote on the funding deal.
“I’m going to wait and see exactly how he does it and what he does,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntContractor back pay not included in shutdown deal Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees MORE (R-Mo.), an appropriator. “There are ways you could transfer funds that I could be fully supportive of, and there are other ways that I have a lot of problems with.”
Democrats are likely to challenge Trump’s executive order in Congress, in addition to legal challenges in the courts. Though rare, lawmakers believe they could pass a resolution of disapproval by a simple majority; it would be subject to a veto.
“He’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities,” House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi3 ways to translate Green New Deal into actual policy House approves motion condemning anti-Semitism Pelosi dismisses GOP criticism of Omar: ‘They do not have clean hands’ MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerChristie: Trump doesn’t give nicknames to people he respects Cuomo to meet with Trump over SALT deduction cap Bill setting US policy in Middle East makes world safer MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement Thursday.
To get a resolution blocking the action through the GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats would need to remain united and flip at least four Republicans.
They excoriated the move on Thursday, warning Republicans that supporting Trump now could haunt them down the line.
“A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well,” Pelosi said Thursday. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”
Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Abrams offers progressive counterpoint to Trump in Dem response Deutsche Bank turned Trump down for loan in 2016: report MORE (D-Md.), an appropriator, said a declaration would be “a gross abuse of power” and that it was “likely illegal.”
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBorder talks stall as another shutdown looms Mulvaney: Government shutdown on the table Key GOP senator: Border wall talks are stalled MORE (D-Mont.), a moderate from a Trump-won state, said the decision was “not smart at all.”
“I think it sets a standard for declarations of emergency that just about anything could fit into, and he isn’t going to be the president forever,” Tester said. “I think it takes power away from the legislative branch, so it’s a failure on all sorts of fronts.”