President Trump has declared a national emergency that he says will allow him to access $8 billion to build his border wall without approval from Congress.
Trump acknowledged the decision is likely to face swift legal opposition and could be decided in the Supreme Court while announcing the emergency in remarks Friday morning from the Rose Garden at the White House.
“I expect to be sued,” he said.
Trump also said he could have waited to get funding for the wall over a longer period of time. “I didn’t need to do this,” he said. “But I’d rather do it much faster.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement criticizing Trump’s decision before he even left the podium Friday.
“The President’s emergency declaration, if unchecked, would fundamentally alter the balance of powers, inconsistent with our country’s vision,” they said. “We call upon our Republican colleagues to join us to defend the constitution.”
The declaration follows the passage of a spending bill that will give about $1.4 billion for fencing along the border in Texas — an amount far less than the $5.7 billion Trump demanded to fund the wall. Trump is expected to sign the spending bill, which marks the result of three weeks of negotiations following a 35-day government shutdown, the longest in history, in a standoff over the wall. Democrats in Congress have refused to allocate additional funding for border barriers.
In citing an emergency at the border, Trump disputed figures from his own government. At one point he said the assertion, based on a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report, that most drugs are seized at legal border crossings is “all a lie.”
The emergency declaration has come under criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, who fear Trump is setting a precedent for future Presidents to declare national emergencies to push their policy priorities.
Beyond a legal challenge, Trump will inevitably encounter stiff opposition from Congress that may force a confrontation with his own party. Congress can propose a joint resolution rejecting the declaration that only requires a majority vote in both chambers to pass. It will sail through the Democratic House. If the Democrats in the Senate remain united, they only need to pick off four Republican Senators to join them in opposing the declaration — likely an easy feat since more than double that number rejected the spending bill on Thursday.
Trump would likely veto any resolution that passes through both the House and Senate, putting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the unenviable position of either convincing his caucus to override the veto or allow the President to embark on a path he has publicly opposed.
A senior Democratic leadership aide said it was “likely” the House would introduce a resolution, but declined to provide specifics on timing. Both chambers are in recess until February 25.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump will have about $8 billion in order to build the wall along the southern border, Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff told reporters Friday morning ahead of the announcement.
Of that $8 billion, $1.375 billion will come from the appropriations bill, and those funds can be used for barriers, not a wall, along the border. An additional $3.5 billion will come from the Defense Department’s military construction budget, which requires the declaration of a national emergency to be used.
Trump will also be able to use $2.5 billion from the Defense Department’s drug interaction program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund. Administration officials said Trump’s goal is to build 234 miles of a border wall.
Trump repeated several false claims in announcing the emergency that have long been fact-checked, including falsely saying that “big loads” of drugs come into the U.S. in areas unprotected by barriers. The majority of drugs, however, that come to the U.S. from Mexico cross over through legal ports of entry — not at points along the border that don’t have barriers, according to Customs and Border Protection. While most of the heroin that comes to the U.S. arrives from the southern border, the majority of it comes through legal ports of entry, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment.
Trump is not the first president to declare a national emergency, and a number of previously declared national emergencies are still technically in effect as of Jan. 8, 2019. Currently, various national emergencies from as far back as 1979 to as recently as 2018 remain in effect.