President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern border on Friday was met with praise and backlash — along with lawsuit threats.
Trump has been fighting to get funding for a border wall, but the budget battle did not end the way he’d hoped.
He wound up signing the eventual proposal from Congress but not without also declaring a national emergency in order to secure needed funds for the wall. He signed the deal to avert another government shutdown; the earlier one ended on January 25.
The proposal delivered to Trump was the work of a bipartisan conference committee, which had three weeks to craft a compromise after a short-term spending bill ended the last partial government shutdown. Lawmakers from both parties, with a few exceptions, then urged the president to sign the proposal.
But his decision to declare a state of emergency was met with more mixed reactions.
“President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (shown above left) said in a statement. “I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our Homeland Security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations.”
Trump’s declaration of an emergency could possibly allow him to free up billions in emergency funds for the wall from various federal reserves through the National Emergencies Act.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (above right) and other critics warned, however, that the situation at the border didn’t and does not constitute an emergency — and that the president was overreaching.
“The president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist 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 Democratic leaders said in a joint statement on Friday. “This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.”
The budget compromise includes $22.54 billion in total border security funding, with $1.375 billion of that going to 55 miles of physical barriers along the southwest border. The proposal also funds the remaining parts of the federal government through the fiscal year to September 30.
But the president has been fighting to get a lot more money for the border wall project to the tune of $5.7 billion.
Some lawmakers took to social media to express their views on Friday’s emergency declaration. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) argued the situation on the border doesn’t qualify, as a prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that it requires immediate action, leaving lawmakers no time to act. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said money cannot be drawn from the U.S. Treasury unless appropriated.
“The president’s emergency declaration today is needed to protect our border from the flow of deadly drugs into our communities and the illegal immigrants who circumvent our laws,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said in a statement. “Speaker Pelosi’s insistence on protecting illegal immigration over securing our border has left the president no choice but to declare an emergency. This could have been avoided.”
Trump is now in unknown legal territory; lawsuits are already surfacing. Legal challenges were expected and the president even said as much during his press conference on Friday. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) promptly announced a lawsuit.
“This is a patently illegal power grab that hurts American communities and flouts the checks and balances that are hallmarks of our democracy,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement in part on Friday. “We will be filing a lawsuit early next week. As the country’s premier defender of civil liberties and civil rights, the ACLU will always fight to ensure a robust system of checks and balances on the power of the executive.”
The decision evades congressional funding restrictions, the ACLU argues, in an unprecedented violation of the federal statute the president invoked. But even more lawsuits are likely to arise. Pelosi said during a press conference a day before the announcement that a legal challenge from her party might result; but at the moment, the Democrats are reviewing options.
“There is no national emergency,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “President Trump simply failed to get a deal to build his wasteful vanity wall. He failed to get a deal with Mexico, despite promising his supporters more than 200 times that Mexico would pay for it. He failed to get a deal with his own party, even during the two years when Republicans controlled all levers of government. And he failed to get a deal now.”
Trump’s declaration of an emergency did not come as a surprise. He began entertaining the idea during the recent government shutdown; he also discussed the possibility of a national emergency during several recent press conferences and meetings.
Trump has argued numerous times the situation at the southern border constitutes a crisis and that a wall was and is critical to deterring illegal drugs and criminal gangs from coming into this country. The arrival of several migrant caravans over the past year have also caused tensions along the southern border and worsened the contentious policy dispute among lawmakers.
“It is maddening that Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge the crisis at our border and instead choose politics over the safety, security, and in many cases, the lives of the American people,” Jenny Beth Martin, honorary chair of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement. “They refuse to even listen to the experts who are charged with securing our border on a daily basis.”
American presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency since lawmakers passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976.
That number does not include disaster declarations for weather events, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.
There are even dozens of emergencies still in effect, as subsequent presidents extended them.
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