Donald Trump will declare a national emergency over the US-Mexico border crisis — and already it’s creating a fierce divide within his own party.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted his support for the decision this morning, saying he stands firmly behind “building the wall-barriers we desperately need”.
I stand firmly behind President @realDonaldTrump’s decision to use executive powers to build the wall-barriers we desperately need. https://t.co/RVer0vZgus
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) February 14, 2019
But several conservatives fear the declaration will set a precedent for a future Democrat president to use against them further down the track.
Since this morning’s announcement, a string of Republican senators have already expressed their concerns. In a statement, Republican congressman Chris Stewart said the President was “making a mistake”, warning the national emergency would “set a dangerous precedent”.
“I think President Trump is making a mistake by declaring a national emergency in order to increase border funding. Whether the President has the authority or not, it sets a dangerous precedent and places America on a path that we will regret,” Mr Stewart 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.
“While I agree we must secure our borders and provide increased security, we must limit the power of the executive to make such declarations.”
— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) February 14, 2019
Likewise, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said he was “disappointed” with Mr Trump’s decision.
He noted that, while he supports stronger border security, “how we do things matters” and “extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong”.
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.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 14, 2019
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said declaring a national emergency was a “mistake”.
“The National Emergencies Act was contemplated to apply to natural disasters or catastrophic events such as the attacks on our country on 9/11,” she said in a statement.
“For the President to use it to re-purpose billions of dollars, that Congress has appropriated for other purposes that has previously signed into law, strikes me as undermining the appropriations process, the will of Congress and being of dubious constitutionality.”
My statement on reports President Trump will declare a national emergency to fund more border walls: pic.twitter.com/fTDgKkRDd6
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) February 14, 2019
Last week, veteran Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said it set a “bad precedent”, adding that he hoped the Supreme Court would make a decision as soon as possible.
“The President is threatening emergency action, a national emergency declaration. I don’t think he should do that. I think it’s a bad precedent. And it contravenes the power of the purse that comes from the elected representatives of the people,” Mr Grassley said.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida warned: “If today, the national emergency is border security … tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.”
But not all Republicans were against the idea.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said Mr Trump was justified in making the drastic move because the Congress had refused to provide enough money to build the wall.
“The issues at the border are important enough to move in that direction,” Capito told Bloomberg.
Earlier in the week, former Republican house speaker Newt Gingrich said Mr Trump had “every right” to declare a national emergency.
“Every day that goes by it’s more obvious that the Democrats don’t value the safety of Americans nearly as much as the value the convenience of people trying to get here illegally and every day that goes by I think the fact that the Democrats won’t compromise … I think that attitude is a really bad way for them to start with the new Congress,” Mr Gingrich told the Fox Business Network.
“In many ways, this is key moment for the President in defining what’s at stake for the country and in shaping the next two years.”
The Democrats have already validated concerns of the precedent the emergency declaration sets.
“If the president can declare an emergency on something he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think about what a president with different values can present to the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this morning.
“You want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today,” she added, referring to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that saw 17 people killed exactly a year ago.
Ms Pelosi said the shooting was “another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America”.
“That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that an emergency Mr President? I wish you would. But a Democratic president can do that. A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well,” she said.
Senator Kamala Harris, who is running for president in the 2020 election, described Mr Trump’s wall as a “vanity project” and said declaring a national emergency was “ridiculous”.
Declaring a national emergency over this President’s vanity project is ridiculous. We don’t need a wall. Instead, we should address the actual emergencies facing our country — everything from gun violence to the opioid crisis.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019
Senator Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 contender, similarly said Mr Trump’s “ridiculous” wall is “not an emergency”, citing gun violence and climate change as issues that would be worthy of one.
Gun violence is an emergency.
Climate change is an emergency.
Our country’s opioid epidemic is an emergency.
Donald Trump’s ridiculous wall is not an emergency.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 14, 2019
Speaking to news.com.au this morning, Dr David Smith from the United States Studies Centre said the Republicans were right to be worried, adding that those who supported him were doing so “very reluctantly”.
“The Republicans are worried that if it succeeds — obviously Trump won’t be President forever, and a Republican won’t be President forever — so what happens when a Democrat comes in and declares a national emergency over climate change, or gun control, or the opioid crisis?” said Dr Smith.
But he said it’s unlikely Mr Trump shares his fellow Republicans’ concerns.
“This just doesn’t seem to bother Trump. He’s signalled many times that he doesn’t care about things that happen after the duration of his presidency. It’ll only become an issue once he’s gone.”