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Democratic lawmakers vow to fight Trump's emergency declaration

The president faced a swell of bipartisan criticism when news of his plans broke Thursday.
Image: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill on Jan. 16, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders said Friday that they would use "every remedy available" to challenge President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency in an effort to circumvent Congress and fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"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,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement as Trump announced the emergency declaration in the White House Rose Garden.

"The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available," they added.

Trump acknowledged Friday that his executive action will draw lawsuits, and Democrats have threatened to fight the declaration through legislation, as well. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who determines the House floor schedule, vowed in a statement Thursday that "House Democrats will challenge this irresponsible declaration."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, confirmed in a tweet Friday that she and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, plan to introduce a joint resolution to terminate the emergency declaration, something House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Thursday that he fully supports.

The pair "aren't going to let the president declare a fake national emergency without a fight," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

A joint resolution would not take effect unless both chambers of Congress passed it and either the president signed it or Congress overrode a veto.

Trump will "absolutely veto" congressional efforts to stop him, a Trump aide said Friday morning.

With the national emergency declared, Trump will have access to roughly $8 billion for the wall, which includes the $1.375 billion appropriation included in the funding package that Congress passed Thursday. It would also include $600 million in Treasury forfeiture, $2.5 billion from the drug interdiction program and $3.6 billion in military construction from the Defense Department, according to a senior White House official.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement Friday that Congress can’t allow Trump to "steal funds" from civil works programs as well as flood prevention and reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"Past national security emergencies have involved hurricanes, wildfires, hostage crises, epidemics and public health emergencies and terrorist attacks posing grave and immediate risk to American lives. The situation at the border clearly falls short," she said.

A number of Republicans have expressed concern with the declaration, as well, and warned Trump that it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a former member of House GOP leadership, said in a statement Thursday that she doesn’t support Trump’s decision and that it “sets a very dangerous precedent that undermines our constitutional separation of powers.”

“By circumventing Congress and Article I of the Constitution, President Trump is opening the door for any future president to act alone without Congressional approval,” she said. “If elected president, how would Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders use this precedent for a national disaster declaration to force the Green New Deal on the American people?”

Several congressional Democrats have said that it could lead to Democratic presidents declaring national emergencies to address issues like gun violence and climate change, which they say are more pressing than building a wall on the border.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted Friday: “100 people die from guns every day. That’s a national emergency. If Trump gets away w this border emergency declaration, then a Dem President can declare a gun violence emergency and institute universal background checks and an assault weapons ban by executive action."

"The Founders afforded Congress alone with the constitutional power of the purse," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee which negotiated the spending deal, in a statement Friday. "In the days and weeks ahead, the President’s emergency declaration — which amounts to an end run around both the Constitution and Congress — will be challenged both in the courts and in Congress."

“A national emergency declaration for a nonemergency is void. A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Friday, adding that Trump "is attempting to circumvent our constitutional system."

Trump dismissed those in his party who criticized his plans as unconstitutional.

"Not too many people have said that. But the courts will determine that. I expect to be sued," Trump told reporters during the White House event.

GOP leaders expressed support for the declaration, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

McConnell, who was the first to publicly reveal the president's decision Thursday, defended the White House move in a Friday statement. "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," he said.

Some Democrats argued Friday that a real emergency would stop Trump from traveling to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holiday weekend.

"Anyone else out there playing emergency golf this weekend?" tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Friday.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., also noted how Trump rambled throughout his off-the-cuff remarks Friday, which the president opened by talking about negotiations with China.

“This bizarre, rambling speech about everything that passes through the president's mind is not exactly conveying the sense of urgency which most people would associate with a national emergency,” he tweeted.

“If there was a real #NationalEmergency, POTUS would lead with that instead of talking about a bunch of other issues,” added Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.