February 16, 2019 10:28:16
President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency at the US-Mexico border, a move that is set to plunge him into a fight with Democrats over what they call an unconstitutional attempt to fund a wall without approval from Congress.
- Democrats say the move “shreds” the constitution and they will challenge the President in court
- Mr Trump is confident he will win any court challenge
- Republicans are split over the move, fearing it could set a worrying precedent
Mr Trump had demanded Congress include money for the wall, one of his biggest 2016 campaign promises, in a funding bill he was expected to sign either later on Friday or Saturday.
The bill was approved overwhelmingly by Congress late on Thursday without the wall money he wanted, a legislative defeat for him.
A national emergency, if not blocked by the courts or Congress, would allow Mr Trump to dip into funds politicians had approved for other purposes in order to build a border wall.
In a press conference, Mr Trump said the emergency declaration was about speeding up the process of building the wall.
“We’re going to be signing today and registering the national emergency and it’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people and it’s unacceptable,” he said.
“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.”
Democrats responded by declaring they would use “every remedy available” to oppose the President’s national emergency declaration, labelling it “unlawful” and saying it would “shred the constitution”.
“Mr President, how can this possibly be an national emergency if you’re saying you don’t need to do it?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would take action “in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public”.
“The Congress cannot let the President shred the constitution,” Ms Pelosi said.
“Donald Trump’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 defence funds for the security of our military and our nation.”
California’s Attorney-General Xavier Becerra told reporters he was also willing to sue over the declaration, saying there was no emergency at the border and Mr Trump did not have the authority to make the declaration.
“No-one in America is above the law, not even the President of the United States,” Mr Becerra said.
“The President does not have power to act frivolously.”
Mr Trump said he expected to be sued: “Sadly, we’ll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we’ll win.”
White House officials said some of the money for the wall would come from military construction projects. Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer said Mr Trump would be using money needed “for the security of our military and our nation“.
Mr Trump said many other presidents had declared national emergencies. But the presidents he cited did not use emergency powers to pay for projects that Congress would not support.
Emergency declarations by former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton were overwhelmingly for the purpose of addressing crises that emerged abroad.
Many blocked foreign interests or terrorist-linked entities from access to funds. Some prohibited certain imports from, or investments to, countries associated with human rights abuses.
The Republican President’s demand for $US8 billion in barrier funding, and the refusal of Democrats to provide it, led to a record, 35-day December-January partial government shutdown that hurt his opinion poll numbers.
Some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans, while sympathetic to his view that the southern border is in crisis, have worried that the action steps into Congress’s constitutional authority to control the government’s purse strings, a position widely shared among Democrats.
Other Republicans have expressed concern that declaring an emergency to achieve policy goals might set a dangerous precedent, inspiring future Oval Office occupants to seize on the tactic to bypass Congress.
February 16, 2019 06:04:34