President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is declaring a national emergency, circumventing the legislative branch to secure border wall funding.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden.
“I’m going to be signing a national emergency, and it’s been signed many times before. It’s been signed by other presidents. From 1977 or so, it gave the presidents the power. There’s rarely been a problem. They signed it, nobody cares, I guess they weren’t very exciting.”
Trump’s declaration comes as he failed to secure congressional support for more than $5 billion he wanted for border security in a broader spending bill that funds a variety of federal agencies.
His unilateral move to declare a national emergency is based on the 1976 National Emergencies Act. It’s been used 60 times since the law was passed, including after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when President George W. Bush sought additional powers to organize the military.
But Trump’s critics assailed the move, accusing the president of manufacturing a crisis and vowing a fight in the courts.
“President Trump’s personal political predicament does not qualify as a national emergency,” said Tampa Democratic Rep Kathy Castor. “He manufactured a national emergency to unlawfully divert funds to his pet project instead of focusing on what matters to American families like lowering health care costs, creating jobs through infrastructure and tackling the climate crisis.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday in a joint statement that Trump’s actions “clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Trump fueled his critics by suggesting during his press conference that he didn’t “need” to issue the declaration, as he also emphasized that the wall is necessary to block drugs, criminals and gang members from entering the United States.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said.
Congress does have the power to end a national emergency declaration from a president, but it would likely mean mustering a veto-proof majority in both chambers, a steep climb in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Many Republicans are supportive of Trump’s plans, including Florida U.S. Senator Rick Scott, who said he applauded the decision to put “country first” and use his authority to secure the border.
“This is a reasoned, measured approach to fulfill his duty as Commander in Chief and keep our country safe, and I appreciate that he kept his word to not repurpose funds designated for disaster relief funding for Florida or Puerto Rico, which I’ve discussed with him at length. I look forwarding to working with him as Florida continues to rebuild following multiple devastating hurricanes,” Scott said.
However, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, took a dissenting view of Trump’s action. He warned that the move could lead future presidents to pursue their own agendas by using emergency declarations.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Rubio said in a statement.
Another president “may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” he said, referring to Democrats’ proposal to combat climate change.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was also critical, saying that the declaration would “undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process.”
She warned that it “sets a bad precedent for future Presidents—both Democratic and Republican—who might seek to use this same maneuver to circumvent Congress to advance their policy goals. It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts.”
(With additional reporting from Mitch Perry).