Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday addressed an impending vote on whether to override President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration along the southern border.
Trump made the emergency declaration back in February after budget discussions failed to meet his requests for border security wall funding. He reluctantly signed a compromise deal to avoid a second partial government shutdown as a result of the dispute.
Now, a resolution to block the emergency order could pass this week.
“I think everyone in our caucus is in favor of the president’s position on the wall and border security,” McConnell told reporters during a press conference. “It is no secret that the use of the national emergency law has generated a good deal of discussion, and we’ll continue those discussions until it all comes to a head on Thursday.”
Trump has been fighting to secure $5.7 billion to fund the construction of the border wall. The eventual compromise deal only included $1.375 billion for physical barriers. Trump made the emergency declaration in order to free up billions of dollars in emergency funds for the border wall from various federal reserves through the National Emergencies Act (NEA).
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) introduced the resolution soon after the president made the declaration. The House already passed the proposal mostly along party lines on February 26. The resolution would block the president from diverting emergency funds for the construction of the border wall.
McConnell was also asked whether he’d support efforts to reform the NEA to make the authority less broad. He would consider supporting such a bill, he said, but stressed his caucus believes the president did nothing wrong under current law.
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He also noted that any such proposal wouldn’t impact the current emergency declaration.
“We’re looking at some ways to revisit the law,” McConnell said. “There is a lot of discomfort with the law. Not that the president doesn’t have the authority to do what he is doing. I believe most of my members now believe this is not a constitutional issue in that sense, but rather is this grant of authority to any president — not just this one, any president — was it too broad back in the ’70s when it was passed.”
Since it was passed back in 1976, presidents have used the NEA many times, such as for disaster responses to weather events. Trump has repeatedly argued the situation at the southern border is a crisis; his emergency declaration, he believes, is an appropriate option to address it. He’s also argued a wall is critical to deterring illegal drugs and criminal gangs from coming into this country.
Senate Republicans have a majority, but enough defectors could help the resolution pass.
Democrats already overwhelmingly supported the resolution at 47 members — which means they only needed four senators to break party lines. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) became the fourth Republican senator to express his support for the resolution on March 4.
McConnell has already said that he expects the resolution to pass the Senate. The resolution is still not likely to get much further than that, given the threat of a veto. Trump has already said he doesn’t plan to sign it.
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