Thomas Gallatin / March 14, 2019

Lee’s Plan to Save Trump’s Emergency Declaration

Republicans are divided on Trump’s border barrier amid concerns over executive overreach.

The Senate will vote today on a resolution to override President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to fund the border barrier. The Democrat-controlled House easily passed the resolution last month with the help of 13 Republicans who joined the Democrats. It’s likely that the Senate will also pass the measure, as up to 15 GOP senators may vote to override.

Republicans find themselves in a difficult position. While the majority agree with Trump on the need to secure the border, some object to his evoking an emergency declaration as the means to garner greater funding. Many conservatives have long argued that the National Emergencies Act cedes too much power from Congress to the executive branch.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on Tuesday sought to offer a possible solution that would serve to uphold Trump’s emergency declaration while at the same time reining in executive power on future emergency declarations. Lee’s bill, which actually has Trump’s support, would require congressional approval within 30 days of an emergency declaration by the president or it would automatically terminate. Lee argued, “If Congress is troubled by recent emergency declarations made pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, they only have themselves to blame. If we don’t want our president acting like a king, we need to start taking back the legislative powers that allow him to do so.”

The trouble is that, should the Senate take up and pass Lee’s resolution — the unwieldily named Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies (ARTICLE ONE) Act — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has already declared it DOA in the House.

So, as things currently stand, even if the Senate passes the House’s resolution, Trump is certain to veto it. And the Senate doesn’t have the votes to override that veto, effectively keeping Trump’s emergency declaration in place while it’s duked out in the courts. “And for what?” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board asks. “The President doesn’t need to invoke a national emergency to build his wall along the southern border. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has pointed out that the White House already has funds at its disposal without declaring an emergency.”

Trump currently has enough money to move forward on constructing the border barrier through to the next round of budget negotiations in the fall, when he can once again press Congress for more border funding. Seemingly, all the emergency declaration has done is give Democrats more political fodder to attack Trump, while dividing Republicans over the issue of executive overreach. We still argue that Trump has not exceeded his authority under the law as it stands currently, but we also believe that the National Emergencies Act grants too much power to the executive branch.

Update: “The Senate voted on Thursday to nix President Trump’s national emergency declaration to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall, setting up the first veto battle with his White House,” reports The Hill.

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