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ROCKVILLE – After Congress passed a measure to override his national emergency declaration, President Donald J. Trump issued a veto on March 15, prolonging the debate over funding for his border wall.
Trump’s veto now means that both the House of Representatives and Senate will need a two-thirds majority to overturn his national emergency declaration — an unlikely outcome.
After failing to receive the $5 billion he requested from Congress to building a physical barrier along the U.S.- Mexico border, Trump declared a national emergency, saying that there was a crisis of human and drug trafficking that allowed him to use emergency powers to divert funds from other agencies. However, Congress disagreed, with both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate voting to rebuke the president’s executive order.
The veto is the first of Trump’s presidency; now it will leave the fate of executive orders to the courts, which, Trump admitted right after he signed it, may rule the order unconstitutional.
For many members of Congress, their vote to undo the executive order was a symbolic attempt to stand up to the president. While resolution undoing the president’s national emergency declaration passed both chambers, it was without a veto-proof majority, meaning the bill was destined to be dead-on-arrival at the president’s desk.
“The president’s actions are an affront to the constitution and separations of powers, our checks and balances and congressional power of the purse to set appropriations levels,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Now the courts will have to make a decision, as 16 states including Maryland, have sued the president claiming that the executive order is unconstitutional. This set up a protracted legal process, as rulings and then appeals may mean that the Supreme Court could make the final call.
“There is no justification to declare a national emergency at our southern border,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh in a statement. “The basis for President Trump’s declaration is fabricated. It is an illegal power grab and an abuse of executive authority. We are bringing this suit to defend the Constitution.”
The executive order came after a months-long standoff between Trump and Congressional Democrats, which led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump, who looked to fulfill one of the main promises from his campaign to build a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border, sought funding for it from Congress, which was ultimately denied.
While the wall was a key promise for Trump during his presidential campaign, the Democrats took November’s sweeping midterm victories, in which they regained control of the House, as a mandate from voters to reject Trump’s agenda — including his wall.
Congress’s refusal to grant him the $5 billion in funding for his wall prompted him to declare a national emergency, claiming that there was a crisis along the border and that he needed to use emergency powers to gather funding — with or without the legislature’s consent.
For about a month, Trump and Congressional Democrats could not come to an accord on a budget resolution, causing a government shutdown. Trump eventually relented and agreed to a budget that contained only $1.375 billion for border security, much less than the roughly $5 billion he originally had asked for.
The National Emergencies Act, passed by Congress in 1974, allows the president to assume special powers during a national crisis. While Congress has the power to override the president’s national emergency declaration, it would need a two-third majority in both chambers to do so.
“Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,” Trump said. “It’s against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.”