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How Democrats plan to respond to Trump declaring a national emergency

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Democratic lawmakers are responding to an announcement that President Donald Trump plans to declare a national emergency to secure funds for his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border.

So, how did we get here?

On Thursday, both houses of Congress voted to pass legislation that would fund the government for the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year, allocate money for border security, and avoid another government shutdown.

This compromise bill, put together by lawmakers from both parties and both houses, appropriates $1.375 billion for a 55-mile-long barrier along parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in El Paso, Texas, on February 11, 2019, calling for a border wall to be built.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

These funds are short of the $5.7 billion Trump was demanding to build 200 miles of wall. That demand led to the record 35-day partial government shutdown that impacted roughly 800,000 federal employees and dinged the economy.

But there’s little political appetite for another shutdown, and on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Trump would sign the compromise bill — but there’s a catch. The president is also preparing to declare a national emergency, McConnell said.

What’s a national emergency?

INSIDER’S Michelle Mark explained what a national emergency is and how Trump could do it.

The short version is the 1976 National Emergencies Act gives the president the authority to declare a national emergency in certain cases, which are renewed each year.

There are currently 31 ongoing national emergencies, Public Radio International notes.

The response from lawmakers is mixed

Both Republicans and Democrats have chafed at the idea, as it would bypass congressional authority, including the power of the purse— how to spend Americans’ tax dollars.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement, calling a declaration a “lawless act,” and promising that “the Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, tweeted his disapproval on Thursday, citing reports of where the emergency money will be drawn from.

“Yanking money from the Military Construction budget is a violation of the law and the Constitution, and an abdication of our obligation to responsibly fund the military,” Schatz tweeted. “As Ranking Member of the MilCon VA Subcommittee, I will fight this in every way that I can.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins called the act “troubling.”

“This approach does set a very bad precedent for future presidents, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican, to feel that they can get around Congress’s constitutional role to allocate funding,” Collins said, according to ABC News.

Some Republicans cited it as executive overreach and said it set a precedent for Democratic presidents to declare emergencies on other issues like climate change or gun deaths.

“But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. “I will wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration before making any definitive statement. But I am skeptical it will be something I can support.”

Even Majority Leader McConnell was initially critical of a declaration, before saying he supported the president on Thursday.

Other Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Shelby from Alabama, are supporting the president and his plan to get funds for the border wall.

And what are lawmakers planning?

As INSIDER’S Michelle Mark explained, it’s unclear if Trump’s declaration will pass legal muster, and Democratic lawmakers are revealing what they would do to challenge such a declaration.

The National Emergencies Act gives Congress the ability to terminate a national emergency by a joint resolution, which would then need to be signed by the president.

Some Democrats, like Rep. Joaquin Castro, from Texas, have already said they will take action.

“If President Trump declares a national emergency to fund his border wall, I’m prepared to introduce a resolution to terminate the President’s emergency declaration under 50 U.S.C. 1622. (National Emergencies Act),” Castro said in a statement released on Thursday.

Such a joint resolution would need to start in the appropriate committee, and be reported out of that committee within 15 days of the national emergency declaration. After leaving committee, the House would need to vote on the joint resolution within three days. It would then travel to the appropriate committee in the Senate and would also be held to that same time frame.

Other representatives, including Reps. Tom Malinowski, Bobby L. Rush, Nydia M. Velázquez, and John Garamendi have signaled they would support a joint resolution to counter the president’s emergency declaration.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, also voiced support for a joint resolution.

President Donald Trump turns to House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

“I will fully support the enactment of a joint resolution to terminate the President’s emergency declaration, in accordance with the process described in the National Emergencies Act, and intend to pursue all other available legal options,” Rep. Nadler said in a statement.

He added: “The Judiciary Committee will also use its authority to hold the Administration to account and determine the supposed legal basis for the President’s actions.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Nadler also said that if the joint resolution failed in the Senate or was vetoed by the president “we’ll probably go to court after that.”

Legal action was also suggested by Garamendi, who told Roll Call, “There appears to be plenty of opportunities for lawsuits here.”

Speaker Pelosi, however, has left the Democratic response open.

“We will review our options,” she said at a press conference on Thursday. “We will be prepared to respond appropriately to it.”

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