Public officials spoke out on Friday after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency at the southwestern border in an effort to reroute government money to fund his long-promised wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Trump’s declaration “unlawful” and said it could make the U.S. unsafe by diverting defense funds “over a crisis that does not exist.”
“This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” they wrote.
Trump on Thursday said he would approve Congress’ spending bill, which includes $1.375 billion for border barriers, as opposed to the $5.7 billion he initially demanded. By declaring a national emergency, he can seize other government money to fund the project — about $3.6 billion from Defense Department construction projects to build the wall, and an additional $2.5 billion the department had allocated for counterdrug activities, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters.
With that total of about $8 billion, the administration could erect some 234 miles of barriers, according to a senior administration official.
In reality, it will likely set up a legal battle that could tie up the president’s signature promise for months or years to come.
“The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) noted in a tweet on Friday that military construction funding often goes toward improving housing, bases and hospitals for service members. In a statement the same day, he said he sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan requesting a “list of projects that will lose funding as a result of the President’s emergency declaration.”
“I am concerned that a project that the President stated would be paid for by Mexico will now be borne by military servicemembers and their families, as they will be forced to remain in ‘poor’ or ‘failing’ conditions,” Kaine wrote. “The safety and well-being of our forces and their families is the supreme responsibility of every commander in the military; it should be no different for the Commander-in-Chief.”
“The President’s declaration of a manufactured national emergency in order to erect an ineffective, wasteful, and medieval wall sets a dangerous precedent,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a statement. “All of us who have taken an oath to the Constitution must challenge this egregious abuse of power and uphold the checks and balances that are the foundation of our republic.”
“President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power and subvert the constitution,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement on Friday. “This ‘emergency’ is a national disgrace, and the blame lays solely at the feet of the President. Meanwhile, he plans to shutdown and divert funds used by California law enforcement that run counter-narcotics operations and fight drug cartels to build his wall. Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court. ”
A slew of other politicians tweeted their reactions to and released statements on Trump’s emergency declaration on Friday.
Some Republicans, both before and after Trump made the declaration, voiced their concern about the precedent it would set.
“Such a declaration would undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process; it’s just not good policy,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement on Thursday.
She continued, “It also sets a bad precedent for future Presidents — both Democratic and Republican — who might seek to use this same maneuver to circumvent Congress to advance their policy goals. It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) commented on Thursday that “no crisis justifies violating the Constitution.”
“Today’s national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” he 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.”