After Congress refused to approve more funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency to gain access to additional funding for the wall on February 15, reports the New York Times.
Previous presidents have declared national emergencies before, but most of these declarations aimed to address foreign crises rather than the allocation of money without congressional approval.
According to the New York Times, the declaration of a state of emergency combined with other funds, including a spending package previously approved by Congress, will grant Mr. Trump approximately $8 billion for the construction of new barriers and repairs of old ones. This amount is well higher than the $5.7 billion that Congress denied to Mr. Trump for wall funding.
Additionally, President Trump will have access to funds from laws previously passed by Congress, says CNN. Mr. Trump will be able to reallocate funds from military construction funds and civil works for the construction of the border wall. While President Trump will not need congressional approval to use this money, he still must inform Congress which funds he will utilize.
The Wall Street Journal stated that Mr. Trump is testing the limits of executive power through his declaration of state of emergency. The purpose of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 is to handle emergency crises rather than act a legal pathway for campaign promises. It is also legally possible that Congress could overturn his declaration of state of emergency if a resolution passes both chambers.
According to the Atlantic, Congress will vote to disallow President Trump’s use of his emergency authority. If the proposal reaches the Senate, 51 votes will be enough to pass the bill. Even though President Trump could veto this bill, it will still be evident that Congress considers Mr. Trump to be misusing his powers.
Moreover, it is unclear if the President has the right to gain funds through an emergency declaration. Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on national security law, tweeted that Presidents have the right to use emergency declaration when Congress has no time to act, Vox reports. However, according to the Constitution, when Congress has acted already, the President is bound to observe its ruling.
In a later report, the Wall Street Journal indicated that President Trump’s declaration could create a dangerous legal precedent. If it is successful, future presidents will have an incentive to use emergency declarations to push for agendas that are not widely supported in Congress.
Lawmakers vowed to fight against the President’s declaration, reports CNB News. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Joaquin Castro announced that they will introduce a resolution to end the state of emergency and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler expressed support for this resolution.
In fact, Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a statement against the President’s national emergency declaration. They believe that the declaration is unconstitutional given that “the President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our founders enshrined in the constitution.” Nevertheless, President Trump continues to state that he will block any attempts to stop his emergency declaration.