President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to secure funds for the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has Democratic lawmakers howling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it an “unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist” and said it “does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation. ”
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a joint statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Trump declared the emergency Friday to fulfill his pledge to construct a wall and protect Americans from illegal migrants.
Trump’s insistence on wall funding has been a flashpoint in his negotiations with Congress for more than two years, as has the resistance of establishment lawmakers in both parties to meeting the president’s request.
The money in the bill for border barriers, about $1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the more than 200 miles he wanted this year.
To bridge the gap, Trump announced that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers — combining the money approved by Congress with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions, including the national emergency. The money would come from funds targeted for counterdrug efforts and military construction.
Despite widespread opposition in Congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Trump was responding to pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid appearing like he’s lost his nerve on his defining promise to voters. Trump advisers on the campaign and inside the White House insist that, fulfilled or not, the promise of a wall is a winning issue for Trump as he heads into his re-election campaign as long as he doesn’t appear to be throwing in the towel on it.
Word that Trump would declare the emergency prompted condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said Trump was abusing his authority.
Trump described how the decision will be challenged and work its way through the courts, including up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said, “Sadly, we’ll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think.”
He’s right. Democratic state attorneys general said they’d consider legal action to block Trump.
In a comment that will surely be used to challenge the legal underpinnings of his emergency declaration, Trump hinted at the political realities behind his action. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” he said. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
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