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Republicans have concerns about Trump’s emergency declaration, too

Congressional Republicans raised concerns, but didn't denounce Trump's radical maneuver

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement Friday that the president's national emergency declaration defies the Founders. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement Friday that the president's national emergency declaration defies the Founders. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Some in the president’s party are wringing their hands about how the emergency declaration for a border wall might set a reckless precedent.

While Congressional Republicans have raised concerns, most held off on denouncing the president’s radical maneuver to circumvent Article I of the Constitution and devote federal funds to a border wall without their approval.

They wonder how a future Democratic president could circumvent Congress on liberal spending priorities like the Green New Deal — the sprawling plan supported by Democratic progressives to address climate change by restructuring the economy and phasing out fossil fuels. 

Among the most stinging criticisms came from Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Tennessee Republican said Trump’s national emergency declaration is, “is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution” and the congressional power of the purse.

In a statement, Alexander also called the declaration both “unnecessary” and “unwise.”

“It is unwise because if this president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next president can declare a national emergency to tear it down; or declare a climate change emergency to close coal plants and build wind turbines; or a health care emergency and force into Medicare the 180 million Americans with health insurance on the job,” Alexander said.

“It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution because, after the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses,” said Alexander, the Energy-Water chairman. “The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., former Republican conference chair, said the declaration could subvert the balance of powers between branches of government. She said she worries it could open the door to passing a Green New Deal by fiat.

“If elected president, how would Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders use this precedent for a national disaster declaration to force the Green New Deal on the American people?” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., echoed that concern.

“Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” Rubio said in a statement.

Rubio did not say whether he supported or opposed an emergency declaration, but instead said he would “wait to see what statutory or constitutional power the President relies on to justify such a declaration.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also held off on staking a position on the national emergency declaration, but underscored his support for the president’s wall push.

“The Constitution grants Congress the authority to appropriate federal dollars, so I’m sure such action will be litigated in the courts,” Grassley said in a statement. “What’s clear, however, is that the president takes the situation at our border seriously and that Democrats do not.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced in a Thursday statement that the president will sign a budget deal to avert a government shutdown. In the same statement, she announced the president would “take other executive action — including a national emergency.”

According to White House aides, a national emergency declaration would grant Trump broad authority to redirect money appropriated to the Pentagon and U.S. Treasury in order to construct a border wall.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was concerned about how an emergency declaration would weaken the power of Congress to appropriate federal funds.

It “strikes me as undermining the appropriations process, the will of Congress and of being of dubious constitutionality,” Collins said in an interview with USA Today.

Here are some of the other Republicans who have raised concerns about an emergency declaration for a border wall:

Rep. Chris Stewart

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said a Democratic president could deem climate change or gun violence a national emergency in order to outmaneuver Congress on appropriating tax dollars.

“Whether the president has the authority or not, it sets a dangerous precedent and places America on a path that we will regret,” he said. “It deeply worries me that a future Democratic president may consider gun violence or climate change a ‘national emergency’ and what actions they may then take.”

Sen. Mitt Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, supported the budget deal but said an emergency declaration is not the “right approach.”

Sen. Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., supports a border wall, but the libertarian senator said he opposes the emergency declaration, which he described as “extraconstitutional.”

“I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas. But how we do things matters. Over 1,000 pages dropped in the middle of the night and extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them,” Paul said.

Rep. Will Hurd

The Texas congressman and only Republican to represent a district along the southern border, said in an appearance on The View that about “1,000 landowners are going to be impacted. And guess what? They’re going to sue.”

Rep. Mike Turner

“I supported this funding deal as a step towards securing our border, which we absolutely must do. However, I believe it is a dangerous precedent for the President to be forced to declare a national emergency because Congress refuses to provide necessary funding to protect our country,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “As I have voiced to this Administration repeatedly, I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects.”

Sen. Mike Lee

The Utah Republican, who supports an originalist view of the U.S. Constitution, issued a gentle criticism of the president’s Article I workaround on Twitter Friday afternoon.

“My initial assessment is that what Pres. Trump announced is legal. Whether or not it should be legal is a different matter,” Lee said. “Congress has been ceding far too much power to the exec. branch for decades. We should use this moment as an opportunity to start taking that power back.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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