By Michael Hernandez
U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday in a bid to bypass Congress to build his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“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,” Trump said as he prepared to sign legislation that averts another partial government shutdown, funding the whole of government through the end of September.
The bill provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles (89 kilometers) of new border fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas — far short of the $5.7 billion he had sought for his barrier.
The Trump administration has identified more than $8 billion in funding that could be used to build the border following the emergency declaration, the bulk of which — $6.1 billion — will come from funds previously allocated to the Pentagon.
The funds “will be used sequentially and as needed,” the White House said in a statement.
But his action is certain to spur legal challenges from Democrats and landowners whose property Trump would have to expropriate to build the separation barrier.
Article One of the Constitution mandates that “no money” shall be taken from the Treasury without congressional approval.
Trump acknowledged that he is likely to face suit, but said he expects to be “successful” in court.
Democrats have warned that no emergency exists on the U.S.’s southern border, and by his declaration the president is setting a dangerous precedent for future commanders-in-chief. Several Republicans have also cautioned Trump against taking the action.
In a rare joint statement, the top Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate called Trump’s action “unlawful,” claiming it is being made “over a crisis that does not exist.
“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,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republican Senator Rand Paul said Thursday he is “disappointed” with the president’s decision to move forward with the emergency declaration.
“I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas. But how we do things matters,” Paul said on Twitter. “Extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them.”
Paul has yet to comment on the matter following the president’s announcement, but he is one of a half-dozen Senate Republicans who have voiced concern over the action.
That could be pivotal for the chamber as any measure of disapproval that clears the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will have to be voted on in the Senate where lawmakers would be forced to go on the record concerning the president’ action.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday he plans to introduce such a resolution, making the awkward scenario for Senate Republicans a near certainty.
It would only need a simple majority to clear the Senate where all 47 Democrats and Independents are highly likely to unanimously approve.