WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders vowed Friday to fight President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, calling it a “power grab by a disappointed president.”
“The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
They issued their response as Trump was still speaking in the White House Rose Garden, where the president said he is declaring the emergency to get more money to construct a wall along the southern U.S. border.
The announcement came as Trump was preparing to sign a bill that prevents another government shutdown and also provides $1.375 billion for border fencing – far less than the $5.7 billion the president had demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump himself predicted the issue would end up before the Supreme Court. “I expect to be sued,” he said, before adding, “I shouldn’t be sued.”
“We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country,” Trump said. “So I think that we will be very successful in court.”
But an analysis of data from the southern border indicates that the vast majority of narcotics enters through U.S. ports of entry, not the wide swaths of border in between where additional barriers could be erected, experts say.
More: Follow the money: How President Trump’s national emergency will pay for a border wall
Critics said the president’s own remarks appeared to undermine the urgency on the border, where migrant crossings are far lower than they were a decade ago.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said. “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”
Democrats said Trump’s perceived crisis doesn’t exist. Schumer and Pelosi said in their statement that the president’s actions “clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse” and make the nation less safe by “stealing from urgently needed defense funds.”
Already, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said on Thursday that he supports Congress taking up a resolution to halt the move.
He also vowed to both examine other legal methods and the actions in the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, that could stop the president.
“I will fully support the enactment of a joint resolution to terminate the president’s emergency declaration, in accordance with the process described in the National Emergencies Act, and intend to pursue all other available legal options,” he said. “The Judiciary Committee will also use its authority to hold the administration to account and determine the supposed legal basis for the president’s actions.”
Nadler’s call for a resolution in Congress points to a rarely used measure that could allow lawmakers to block the emergency declaration.
It was used in 2005, the only time in history, and stopped then-President George W. Bush from declaring a national emergency after Hurricane Katrina that would have suspended prevailing wage laws on federal contracts to rebuild the region.
In 2005, Rep. George Miller, a California lawmaker who was the top Democrat on the House Education and Labor Committee, dug up the National Emergencies Act of 1975, one in a series of post-Watergate reforms.
It allowed Congress to terminate a presidential emergency by simple majority vote. And, in turn, Bush backed down without even a vote.
All it would take for this to happen again is for one member of Congress to force the issue.
Democrats also might also have the option of fighting the measure in court.
The grounds for lawsuits won’t be clear until the White House outlines the details of the emergency declaration.
More: Trump’s emergency declaration would trigger a drawn-out legal fight
Litigation could go all the way to the Supreme Court, which has smacked down attempts by both Trump and President Barack Obama to make end runs around Congress.
How long that takes would depend on several factors, including what programs the White House might tap for funding, who has the right to sue, and what court the suits are filed in.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has said the administration is “very prepared” for legal challenges.
Even before Trump officially made the declaration, organizations on Thursday were vowing to challenge the order in court.
Groups such as Protect Democracy and the Niskanen Center said on Thursday they were already preparing lawsuits to challenge the president’s emergency order. The groups said they would represent El Paso County in Texas along with the Border Network for Human Rights in a lawsuit against the administration.
And that’s just the start of it.
Contributing: Michael Collins, John Fritze and Gregory Korte