ROCKVILLE – The Senate is preparing to pass a legislation to block President Donald J. Trump’s national emergency declaration, which he issued in February as an attempt to build a border wall without congressional approval.
After the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Trump agreed to sign a bill to fund the government that allocated only $1.375 billion for border security which was much less than the roughly $5 billion he had asked Congress for.
Shortly after he signed the funding bill, Trump held a news conference where he said he would declare a national emergency on the border, using the threat of drugs and human trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border as justification.
The Democratically controlled House of Representatives quickly acted to pass a resolution to block the national emergency, and the Senate is following suit. With the defection of three Republicans Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the resolution is likely to pass the Senate as well, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“It is a gross abuse of power – and likely illegal – for President Trump to go around Congress to fund his border wall,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Inventing an unnecessary emergency declaration to pay for his wall by redirecting funds already allocated to our military or domestic infrastructure sets a dangerous precedent. I am confident this lawless act will be struck down by the courts.”
If the measure to repeal Trump’s declaration passes the Senate, the president can veto it, meaning it would need a two-thirds vote in both chambers for his veto to be overridden — an unlikely outcome.
For Trump, the biggest threat to his national emergency declaration is not Congress, but the courts, which he acknowledged when he said he would sign the executive order declaring a national emergency.
“And we will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there,” Trump said. “And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling. And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake.”
For Trump, the national emergency declaration is his latest attempt to try to fulfill his biggest campaign promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.
While for the first two years of his presidency, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, GOP lawmakers did not make Trump’s wall a priority in the budget. But shortly after Democrats regained control of the House, Trump began a new push for his wall, knowing that the chances for it were dwindling.
During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico, which could cost tens of billions of dollars, according to a wide variety of estimates Trump only requested roughly $5 billion from Congress for a wall.
For Democrats, the 2018 midterm was a referendum on Trump’s presidency and a rejection of many of his policies, including a border wall, with congressional Democrats refusing to vote for any funding resolution that included Trump’s wall funding. That led to a political impasse and a government shutdown.
For many members of Congress, including some Republicans, Trump’s national emergency declaration is an unconstitutional attempt to go around Congress’s power of the purse.
“I’m proud to co-sponsor this resolution to end President Trump’s ’emergency declaration to build his fantasy wall,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8). “Having failed to convince Mexico or the United States Congress to pay billions for his folly, he faces a political debacle—not a national security or military emergency.”
However, for Trump, using the national emergency declaration to divert funding from other government programs to border security is an attempt to help stave off what he considers a desperate situation on the border.
“So, our country is doing very well, economically,” Trump said. “And we’ve done a lot. But one of the things I said I have to do and I want to do is border security, because we have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border.”
Congress passed the National Emergency Act in 1976, as way to give the president certain powers in a time of crisis. As part of the act, Congress has to act quickly if it wants to terminate a president’s national emergency declaration, by reporting it out within 15 days of the declaration.
While a resolution to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration on the border passed the House, a vote is not yet scheduled in the Senate, but could be voted on before the March 15 recess.