WASHINGTON — The top two Democrats in Congress urged President Donald Trump not to follow through with his plan to declare a national emergency to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement.
They added: “It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fear-mongering doesn’t make it one. He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”
On Thursday afternoon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech that Trump had informed him that the president will sign a spending bill crafted by a bipartisan-bicameral conference committee to keep the government open and then declare a national emergency. The White House later confirmed what McConnell had said.
The spending bill provides $1.375 billion for a physical barrier along the border. The money would be spent to build 55 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley.
The legislation includes a provision requested by Democrats to limit the number of beds for detainees held at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities to about 40,000.
The Senate approved the legislation early Thursday evening. The House is expected to take up the measure later tonight.
For weeks Trump has said he would declare a national emergency if Congress did not agree to his $5.7 billion request for a wall. Should he follow through, Democrats are expected to challenge the decision in court.
Article I, Sec. 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution states: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
However, some say the president may be able to use unobligated funds under an emergency declaration.