Democrats move to block Trump’s border emergency

24 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: US Democrats on Friday rolled out their measure aimed at blocking President Donald Trump from circumventing Congress to seize federal dollars for construction of his controversial southern border wall, reports AFP.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will vote next Tuesday on the so-called disapproval resolution to terminate the national emergency that Trump declared last week, an exceptional step that sparked fierce political and legal battles.

The legislation is expected to clear the Democrat-held House of Representatives, then head to the Senate where it is guaranteed a vote under the rules. Its fate however is anything but assured in the upper chamber, which is controlled by Trump’s Republicans.

Trump swiftly weighed in to say he would reject the measure if it reaches his desk, deepening a showdown with his Capitol Hill opponents.

“Will I veto it? 100 percent,” Trump said, expressing confidence that Congress would not be able to override his objection.

Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers, meaning substantial numbers of Republicans would have to break with Trump in order for his emergency declaration to be blocked.

Pelosi meanwhile hammered away at Trump’s “lawless” declaration, saying it had no valid rationale.

“There is no evidence to support the president’s false claim of a crisis on the border,” Pelosi told a conference call Friday from Laredo, Texas, where she and fellow lawmakers were visiting a bridge connecting the US and Mexico.

Trump announced the emergency last week in order to bypass Congress, which did not approve the $5.7 billion he wanted for his wall, a longstanding promise from his 2016 presidential campaign.

The spending bill, which he reluctantly signed in order to avert a government shutdown, included appropriations of just $1.4 billion for fencing and other barriers along the border, but specifically not for Trump’s proposed wall.

Democrats—and some wary Republicans—condemned Trump’s unilateral move as an effort to usurp the powers of the purse, which under the US Constitution are reserved for Congress.

“We do not have a monarch, we have a separation of powers in our country,” Pelosi said, adding she was urging Republicans to join Democrats in pushing back against the president.

The call to action comes as Trump and the White House press on with plans to repurpose more than $6 billion from other sources, mostly already-allocated funds in the Defense Department budget.

Trump has repeatedly declared that rampant illegal immigration is fueling a crisis along the border, leading to higher crime and strains on public services such as health care.

Congressman Joaquin Castro cited low levels of illegal immigration and record levels of national security resources at the border to boost the argument that Trump’s emergency declaration was unnecessary, and “an unconstitutional power grab.”

Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said his resolution already has at least 226 co-sponsors, including one Republican—beyond the simple majority needed in the 435-member body.

He said he would keep calling Republicans to build support for the measure and to urge lawmakers to send a bipartisan message to Trump.