President Trump declared a national emergency to free up funding for his border wall between the U.S and Mexico. But declaring a national emergency isn’t new — in fact, the use of emergency powers is older than the country itself.
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WASHINGTON – After weeks of threatening to declare a national emergency for his controversial border wall, President Donald Trump finally did it.
The president signed a bipartisan spending bill to avert another government shutdown Friday. That bill includes $1.375 billion for his border wall, far short of the $5.7 billion he initially requested. The national emergency and other measures will free up $8 billion – far more than the $5.7 billion he initially demanded – to free up funding for 234 miles of bollard wall, the White House said.
The White House expects to pull the funds from a few places, including military construction cash, asset forfeiture funds at Department of Treasury and drug interdiction money at the Department of Defense.
Now that the spending bill is signed and an emergency has been declared, here’s what you can expect to happen next:
Soon after Trump signed an emergency declaration a slew of political groups started announcing plans to file lawsuits. One organization, the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen, filed a federal suit in the District of Columbia Friday evening arguing against the constitutionality of Trump’s actions.
The lawsuit argues that Trump exceeded his powers by declaring an emergency and was a clear violation of the separation of powers.
“The president has no inherent authority to declare emergencies to override appropriations laws and other laws enacted by Congress; his emergency powers are defined and limited by statute,” the lawsuit states. “Because no national emergency exists with respect to immigration across the southern border, the President’s Declaration exceeds the limited authority delegated to the President.”
In California, the governor and attorney general – both Democrats – held a news conference Friday in Sacramento also vowing to file a lawsuit to block Trump.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’s coordinating with other attorneys general around the country to read through the emergency declaration and prepare a federal lawsuit. He said the president has not presented a convincing case that the southern border represents a crisis because crossings are at historic lows.
“He has the power to declare a national emergency, but this is not 9-11, this is not the Iran hostage crisis of 1979,” Becerra said. “This is a president showing his disdain for the rule of law and our U.S. Constitution.”
California is likely to sue President Donald Trump over his emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the state attorney general said Friday. (Feb. 15)
Becerra, like many others, also pointed out Trump’s own remarks when he announced the order.
“President Trump got one thing right this morning about his declaration when he said, ‘I didn’t have to do this.’ He’s right, he didn’t have to do this. In fact, he can’t do this because the U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to direct dollars,” Becerra said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration is “very prepared” for legal challenges. Trump seemed to mock the process during remarks at the White House, describing how his emergency order would inevitably face legal challenges, which his administration would fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country,” Trump said. “So I think that we will be very successful in court.”
Groups such as Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center said Thursday, a day before the order was signed, that they were preparing lawsuits to challenge Trump’s declaration. The groups said they would represent El Paso County in Texas along with the Border Network for Human Rights in a lawsuit against the administration.
Litigation could go all the way to the Supreme Court, which has smacked down attempts by both Trump and President Barack Obama to go around Congress. How long that takes would depend on several factors, including what programs the White House might tap for funding, who has the right to sue and what court the suits are filed in.
Congress taking action
Congress also has its own options for taking on Trump’s decision.
The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee on Friday sent a six-page letter to the president announcing that they would investigate his use of executive power.
“The House Judiciary Committee is commending an immediate investigation into this matter, which raises both constitutional and statutory issues,” the letter reads, asking that the president make Justice Department and White House officials, including Counsel Pat Cipollone, available for a “hearing in the coming days.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the border he’s making an “end run around Congress.” (Feb. 14)
Lawmakers have other choices of action as well. On Thursday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he supported Congress taking up a resolution to halt the move and vowed to examine other legal methods.
“I will fully support the enactment of a joint resolution to terminate the president’s emergency declaration, in accordance with the process described in the National Emergencies Act, and intend to pursue all other available legal options,” Nadler said.
Nadler’s call for a resolution in Congress points to a rarely used measure that could allow lawmakers to block the emergency declaration. For starters, the resolution – which any member can introduce – puts Republicans in the awkward position of having to vote on an issue that is broadly unpopular with voters.
But to actually rescind the emergency, the joint resolution would need a signature from the president – an unlikely result – or Congress would have to override his veto.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to fight back against Trump’s move but on Friday did not publicly lay out any specifics.
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” a joint statement from Pelosi and Schumer read. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Pelosi and Schumer argued the national emergency order “transcends partisan politics and goes to the core of the Founders’ conception for America, which commands Congress to limit an overreaching executive.” They called on Republicans to join them in denouncing the order.
“The President’s emergency declaration, if unchecked, would fundamentally alter the balance of powers, inconsistent with our Founders’ vision,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “The President is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the President shred the Constitution.”
It isn’t only Democrats who are wary about Trump’s use of executive power.
A number of Republicans have also raised concerns and voiced opposition to the maneuver, saying it allows for a bad precedent that could be used to go around Congress by presidents in years to come when they do not get their way.
President Trump makes the crowd chuckle as he speaks in a singsong manner saying he knows his national emergency declaration is going to lead to a lawsuit, but hopes they’ll “get a fair shake.”
The concerns highlighted a possible division within the Republican party, something that could potentially harm Trump in other battles on Capitol Hill, and in the upcoming 2020 election.
On Thursday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she is concerned about use of the declaration to shift billions of dollars Congress has already appropriated.
She said it “strikes me as undermining the appropriations process, the will of Congress and of being of dubious constitutionality.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. also said he had concerns that Trump would be violating the Constitution and setting up a bad precedent.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” he said in a statement.
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