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By Rebecca Shabad
WASHINGTON — House Democrats planned to push ahead Friday with a measure that seeks to terminate President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration that he issued last week in order to circumvent Congress and build his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was set to file a joint resolution in the House that would repeal the president’s declaration. The measure was to be filed during the chamber’s pro forma session, since lawmakers are on recess and don’t return to Washington until Monday.
As of Wednesday, more than 90 House Democrats had signed onto the legislation as official co-sponsors. In a letter circulated to lawmakers of both parties, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged all members to back it, saying the president’s move “undermines the separation of powers and Congress’s power of the purse.”
“The House will move swiftly to pass this bill,” Pelosi said in the letter, specifying that it would be reported out of committee within 15 calendar days and would be considered on the House floor three days after that. “The President’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated.”
Trump declared the national emergency in a speech from the White House Rose Garden last Friday after Congress refused to allot his full funding request for an actual wall in a bipartisan government spending package. In declaring the emergency, he expected to have access to $8 billion for the wall, including the $1.375 billion in the funding package that he signed last week, $600 million in Treasury forfeiture, $2.5 billion from the drug interdiction program and $3.6 billion in military construction from the Defense Department, a senior White House official said.
The move has drawn bipartisan criticism, with Democrats blasting Trump and Republicans warning him that it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents.
Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, Congress has the ability to try to end an emergency status instituted by the president. Democrats in the House will have no problem passing the resolution given their 235-197 majority.
Once it passes the House, the measure would be sent to the Senate, where unlike most pieces of legislation, GOP leaders could not block it from reaching the floor. The federal law requires that the Senate take up the House-passed resolution within 18 days.
The resolution is considered “privileged” — which means it would not be subject to a filibuster and require 60 votes to move forward. Instead, it would simply require 51 votes to pass. If all 47 Democrats were to support the measure, they would need only four Republican defections to pass it — in a chamber that has not lacked for GOP criticism of the president’s move.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the president’s declaration represented a sharp expansion of executive power.
“That’s why you see an awful lot of us concerned about this,” said Johnson, who said he would hear the president out — but did not rule out voting on a resolution of disapproval in the Senate, saying he would “decide when I actually have to vote on it.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on Monday that the money Trump would be raiding from the military construction budget is needed for facilities around the country.
“So I think it’s a bad idea,” he told reporters at Miami International Airport. “I also think it’s a bad idea because usually emergency declarations are for situations in which Congress doesn’t have time to organize itself to vote on it. The Congress just had a vote on this and it just expressed itself.”
A number of other GOP senators have publicly expressed skepticism or opposition to the declaration — with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, saying she would back a measure limited to disapproval of the declaration itself. “If it’s a ‘clean’ disapproval resolution, I will support it,” she said, according to the Associated Press.
If both the House and Senate were to pass the resolution, it would send a major symbolic message — but its impact would be limited to symbolism: administration aides have already made clear Trump would veto any effort that interfered with his declaration, and the measure is unlikely to attract anywhere near the GOP support needed to overturn a presidential veto.
So Democrats are pushing back on other fronts, looking to nullify the declaration by challenging it in court, with California, New York and 14 other states filing a lawsuit on Monday to try to block the move.