Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday she rejects a proposal to reform national emergency declarations because it would give a pass to President Donald Trump.
Trump declared a national emergency in mid-February amid a highly contentious debate about border security funding. The move drew concern from lawmakers; critics warned of overreach.
Senate Republicans are now backing a measure that would limit emergency powers — though it would not apply to Trump’s current declaration.
“Republican senators are proposing new legislation to allow the president to violate the Constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The House will not take up this legislation to give President Trump a pass,” she added.
Presidents have used the National Emergencies Act (NEA) many times since its passage in 1976. Trump has repeatedly argued the situation at the southern border is a crisis severe enough to warrant the emergency declaration.
He made the move to free up billions of dollars in emergency funds for the construction of the border wall.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the measure on Tuesday to amend the act to limit how much power a president gets. The bill would automatically end all future emergency declarations under the act after 30 days unless they receive congressional approval.
Congress currently can cancel an emergency declaration but only by passing a resolution to overcome a veto.
“If Congress is troubled by recent emergency declarations made pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, they only have themselves to blame,” Lee said in a statement in introducing the measure. “Congress gave these legislative powers away in 1976 and it is far past time that we as an institution took them back.”
The Senate is also expected to vote Thursday on a resolution that would end the current emergency declaration. House Democrats introduced the resolution before passing it mostly along party lines on February 26. The Senate could very well pass it, too, when it comes up for a vote.
Senate Republicans have a majority, but enough defectors could help the resolution pass.
Senate 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 support for the resolution on March 4.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already said he expects the resolution to pass.
McConnell more recently said Tuesday that mostly everyone in his caucus is in favor of the stance the president is taking on the wall. But he admitted there is concern over the emergency declaration. McConnell also said he would consider supporting the bill to reform the act, but stressed his caucus believes the president did nothing wrong under current law.
Trump fought to secure $5.7 billion to fund the construction of the border wall. The eventual compromise deal that he signed only included $1.375 billion for physical barriers.
He recently moved his asking price up in a recently proposed federal budget to $8.6 billion for new border wall funding in order to protect the country from illegal gangs, drugs and more.
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