President Donald Trump on Thursday gave the strongest signal yet that he will declare a national emergency in an effort to secure billions of dollars for a border wall, as negotiations on Capitol Hill to reopen the federal government continue to flounder.
The possible move by Trump would almost certainly trigger an immediate response from House Democratic leaders, who could pursue both congressional and legal avenues to try to halt such unprecedented action.It’s one of the few options left at the table after Trump rejected the work of Senate Republicans hoping they can craft a procedural framework that would allow the government to reopen and then immediately turn to an immigration debate.
An emergency declaration by Trump could also end the partial government shutdown if congressional leaders agree to reopen shuttered agencies and let the border wall drama play out in the courts.
“If we don’t make a deal with Congress, most likely I will do that. I would actually say I would,” Trump told Sean Hannity in an interview at the southern border that aired Thursday night on Fox News. “I can’t imagine any reason why not,” he said, adding that “we are going to see what happens over the next few days.”
Earlier, the president told reporters outside the White House on his way to McAllen, Texas, that he had an “absolute right” to declare the emergency.
Vice President Mike Pence closed off the move by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other GOP senators to come up with an agreement to end the shutdown, showing how hard it is to get the White House on the same page as other Republicans. Pence publicly shot down the idea and also privately relayed to Senate Republicans that Trump will not reopen the government until he gets a solution on the wall.
Graham said he was “depressed” by the move, but then later endorsed the idea of Trump declaring a national emergency even after raising questions of whether Congress would vote to disapprove of such a move.
“It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works,” he said in a statement.
But not all Republicans are supportive of the idea.
“I would advise against that as a bad precedent,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
During a visit to the border, Trump told reporters that he would be open to a larger deal on immigration that would help young immigrants — “We want to help the Dreamers,” he said — though he declined to link it directly to reopening the government.
“But I would like to do a much broader form of immigration, and we could do immigration reform, it’ll take longer, it’s been complex, it’s been going on for 30, 35 years, talking about immigration reform,” Trump said. “Before we do that, we have to create a barrier. That we can do very quickly.”
Graham and a small group of Senate GOP colleagues pitched getting the congressional committees to work on apotential trade — Democrats agree to billions of dollars in funding for Trump’s border wall in exchange for temporary protections for immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status.Under that idea, the government would have reopened while Congress fights out the wall battle.
But Democrats were never read in on the proposal, and Pence signaled Trump wouldn’t go along with it either.
“I think the president feels that we’re waiting to hear from the Supreme Court about DACA,” Pence told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday afternoon. “We’re confident the Supreme Court will find DACA to have been unconstitutional. And at that time, [Trump] believes there will be an opportunity for us not only to address the issue affecting the Dreamers, but also a broader range of immigration issues.”
Pence reiterated that there must be money for Trump’s wall project in an agreement to fund the government: “No wall, no deal.”