New York, Feb 15 (IANS) After another snub by Congress for funding his border wall, President Donald Trump will declare a State of Emergency on Friday in order to divert money to his pet project and back away from his threatened government shutdown, according to the White House.
Unlike in India, an Emergency of the type that Trump is planning does not bring sweeping powers or allow suspension of civil rights and arbitrary arrests, but only enables limited action in government operations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party’s leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, declared that imposing an Emergency would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency”.
With the threat of another government shutdown looming, Congress passed a bill on Thursday with $1.375 billion for a 55-mile fence, nowhere near the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded for the wall along the Mexican border that he had promised during his election campaign.
The measure was hammered out by lawmakers from both parties after Trump allowed the government to reopen after a 35-day shutdown in a showdown over the wall funding.
Trump had threatened to veto any bill without the money he demanded for the wall, but is now agreeing to it while making good on his threat to impose an Emergency to get money for the wall.
“President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national Emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,” his Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday.
The declaration of an Emergency will be challenged in court.
Calling it a “presidential over-reach” and “a dangerous precedent”, Democratic Party Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said: “The Constitution maintains that only Congress has the power of the purse and may appropriate funds. This is not a Constitutional power any President has.”
Pelosi said a legal challenge was “an option and we’ll review our options”.
Several lawmakers from Trump’s own party were against an Emergency declaration. Republican Senator John Cornyn called it a “dangerous step”, saying: “The President is going to get sued and it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal.”
He added that if Pelosi introduces a resolution against the Emergency, it will split the Republicans.
According to media reports quoting the White House officials, Trump plans to spend a total of $8 billion on the border barrier. While there is $1.375 billion allocated in the spending bill, he wants to make up the rest by diverting money from the military construction budget and funds seized from drug smugglers and dealers.
Trump had said during his election campaign that he would make Mexico pay for the border wall – an unrealistic claim that has continued to haunt him as he sought funding in the US budget.
While government was under a shutdown with all but the essential services operating and 800 government employees under temporary layoff, Trump scaled back his idea of a wall to a series of metal slats along the border.
Having had to back down from his funding demand with Pelosi standing firm amid growing opposition to the shutdown, Trump sees the Emergency as the only way for him to build his barrier and save his credibility among his most steadfast supporters.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)