President Trump’s national emergency declaration to free up more funds to build his border wall is dividing Republican lawmakers. Although Mr. Trump signed a bill Friday to keep the government funded, he was dissatisfied with the $1.375 billion allocated by Congress for the president’s southern border wall, which fell substantially short of the $5.7 billion he requested.
Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would support Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration, other Republicans worry that such a broad use of presidential power is not constitutional and could set a dangerous precedent for future Democratic presidents.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander released a lengthy statement calling the declaration “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution” — “unnecessary” because Congress had appropriated funds for border security, “unwise” because future presidents could misuse the power, and “inconsistent” with the Constitution because only Congress is bestowed with the power to tax and spend the people’s money.
“After the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people,” Alexander said.
“Declaring a national emergency for this purpose would be a mistake on the part of the president,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed, adding that a declaration undermines Congress.
“It is also of dubious constitutionality,” she said. Sen. Rand Paul, who has libertarian tendencies, also said he opposed the national emergency declaration.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Politico: “I wish he wouldn’t have done it.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also spoke out against the president’s decision, though he agrees there is a crisis at the border.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Rubio said. “Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal. I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the president relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement. But I am skeptical it will be something I can support.”
Still, not all Republican lawmakers oppose the president’s action. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been urging Mr. Trump to declare a national emergency since January. Montana Sen. Steve Daines has also expressed his support.
However, House Democrats are certain to take action against the declaration, and may try to pass a joint resolution with the Republican-controlled Senate to overrule the national emergency. It is alsofrom states and political organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mr. Trump expects to get roughly $8 billion for the wall, including the funds allocated by Congress, with the remaining money obtained through executive actions — $600 million is expected to come from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture funds, $2.5 billion will come from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program, and an additional $3.5 billion will come from the Pentagon’s military construction budget, according to CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett.