Jan 12, 2019, 7:53 AM ET

Republicans grapple with executive power as Trump weighs national emergency

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Frustrated with congressional gridlock, the president announced the most sweeping executive action on immigration in decades, moving to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation as the leader of the opposing party in Congress accused him of acting like an emperor.

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That battle between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans that began in 2014 touched off years of legal battles -- including a Supreme Court decision in 2016 blocking Obama’s plan -- a struggle overshadowing Washington as President Trump mulls declaring a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border to facilitate construction of a border wall congressional Democrats refuse to fund.

And as the shutdown passes a milestone as the longest in modern U.S. history, some Republicans have become unlikely cheerleaders of Trump's tactics. These are some of the same lawmakers who criticized the Obama administration for executive actions on immigration to protect Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with reporters as he walks on Capitol Hill, Jan. 2, 2019.Susan Walsh/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with reporters as he walks on Capitol Hill, Jan. 2, 2019.

In a statement in November of 2014, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, called Obama’s executive action “a tremendous presidential overreach.”

After an unsuccessful push this week with other senators to work up a potential solution to the impasse, Graham took to Twitter to call on Trump to declare a national emergency to construct the border wall.

Earlier this week, he sounded far more skeptical.

“That’s not my preferred route. I don’t know legally if you can do that.”

Democrats have said the move -- coming at an impasse in government shutdown negotiations prompted by demands to fund the wall -- could be an abuse of power by Trump, and would trample over Congress’s constitutional authority over federal spending.

They are preparing legislative and legal responses to a declaration, which can only be blocked by the passage of a joint resolution through the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, an unlikely outcome given Republican’s control of the Senate.

Republicans who support the president’s ability to declare a national emergency reject the comparison of their position to their stances against Obama’s actions, pointing to the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision to leave in place a lower court’s opinion blocking Obama’s expanded executive action.

“The courts have ruled on his exceeding his authority, and have ruled that he did exceed his authority,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., told ABC News.

Foxx said on Friday she supports Trump’s ability to declare a national emergency, governed today by the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

“How can you say that it is taking authority away when Congress itself gave the president such authority?” she said.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office about immigration and the southern U.S. border at the White House in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019.Carlos Barria/Reuters
President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation from his desk in the Oval Office about immigration and the southern U.S. border at the White House in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019.

“Everybody says he has the right to do it, but we also know that if he does it there will be lawsuits, it’ll get tied up in courts,” Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, told ABC News.

“What does that fix? It gets back to the best fix is to go through Congress.”

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday told reporters at the Capitol that Trump believes “he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency under his authority as president of the United States,” and dismissed one reporter’s comparison of his position to his opposition to Obama’s actions in 2014.

“I don’t know that I ever questioned the constitutional authority the president has [to declare a national emergency],” he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans conceded that should Trump declare a national emergency, the move would ultimately be resolved by the courts.

“That seems the way all our problems have been solved these days,” Foxx said.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Republicans and the White House should be concerned of setting a precedent followed by future Democratic presidents.

“They should be concerned that if he wants something passed, he or she is going to bypass the Congress by going this particular route, declaring an emergency.”

"Tomorrow, the national security emergency might be climate change, so let's seize the fossil fuel plants or something,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in an interview with CNBC, suggesting how Democrats would seize on Trump’s actions to justify their own.

“Maybe it's an exaggeration, but my point is we've got to be very careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power."

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  • J P

    Go ahead and declare a national emergency so we can impeach you for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Conspiracy and treason are coming to your nearest theatre soon!

  • kritikosman

    The national emergency IS trump!!

  • RedSoxPatriotsCelticsBruinsFan

    obama never hesitated making executive orders.

  • comments1

    I doubt that McConnell and other GOP envision Trump as president for life, so they won't want to support declarations of national emergencies for primarily political purposes. It will be very hard to put the worms back into that can.

  • Summer Tyme

    The top Republican in the House vowed Sunday that "action will be taken" after Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King's recent comment about white supremacy and white nationalism.

    "That language has no place in America," California GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
    He continued, "That is not the America I know, and it is most definitely not the party of Lincoln.
    _______________________________

    GOP abandoned Lincoln long ago, Kevin. That's why your party is dead in California and soon will be in much of the rest of the country.

  • MauiOhana808

    The end is near for donnie........................and he knows it!
    Aloha :^D

  • What?

    Horrible precedent to let ANY President trample over Congress. Have any of the Drumpf supporters ever read the constitution (you know THREE branches of government).

  • owthathurts

    If it harms people, Republican politicians are all for it. If it is humane, they hate it.

  • reality25

    The lead picture here is all wrong. Trump isn't sporting his dark sunglasses, a uniform and a beret. What happened to the banana tree that was in the background?

  • FarmFamily

    There certainly is a National Emergency in this country - it's the traitor in the White House.

  • Marcus

    Just swallow your undeserved pride and cut a check for 5.7 billion. The gub'ment can reopen, everyone gets payed, and it's cheaper than the government being shut down.

    One trillion spent on welfare including Medicaid in just one year, 2018.

    5 billion is pocket change.

  • NewsJunkie12

    Nancy is eating his lunch. That’s gotta sting like hell for the most famous misogynist on the planet, gettin’ his áss kicked by a “dumb ol’ girl.”

    How sweet it is.
    (apolgies to Jackie Gleason)

  • Cammosutra

    A minority of Americans voted in favor of Mexico paying for Trump's Wall in 2016. Over 3 Million more voted against Trump and his wall. But NOBODY voted for American taxpayers paying for Trumps wall.

    Trump did not have the votes from the GOP to get his wall in 2016. And he does not have them now. And Article 1 of the US Constitution clearly defines how the US Government is to be funded by the Congress. The President is not mentioned there.

    But the Congress DOES have the defined responsibility and the job of funding the US Government. Presidential temper tantrum or not! And while this shutdown IS Trump's fault, Congress, specifically the GOP Senators, need to step up, earn their pay and do their damned jobs!

  • Matt

    Trump said tonight the he is prepared to declare the border wall a national emergency and that would be 100% ...100%....but, he's just waiting for the Democrats to do the right thing.
    ???

  • NewsJunkie12

    National emergency? It boils down to this, Trump. You have to ask yourself one question, “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya punk? Go ahead. Pull that trigger.

  • Forward forward

    Go ahead. The next Democratic president should declare a health care emergency and take whatever money (s)he wanted to expand the ACA.

  • Harry Gaffney III

    Trump has not enlightened anyone in his administration what his private secret meetings with Putin have been about. He is a traitor. The rest of this is irrelevant. Our nation is being run by a traitor. The rest is Trump trying to hide the truth.

  • Fully Hydraulic

    "Truth isn't truth."

    "The buck stops ... wherever..."

    "Exercise is bad for you!"

    "I know more about everything than everyone!"

    "I can't even turn on a computer."

    #AMERICAN-FREAK-SHOW

  • Fully Hydraulic

    Coulter popped his tiny raisins from the right, Pelosi popped his tiny raisins from the left...

    Oh my what's a narcissistic misogynist to do?

  • Fully Hydraulic

    For a guy who thinks he knows more about everything than anybody - Trump is just a narcissistic sadist with the IQ of a light switch.

  • OneMoreYes33a

    I just hope that the incoming people have the guts to try to get rid of the electoral college. It will mean the end of the Republican party. They can't win an election on popular vote except in the deep south.

  • Fully Hydraulic

    "The buck stops with everybody."

    classic

  • Nearl56 12

    I can’t believe this article is still here.

    Nobody is changing their mind.

    Trump’s argument was rejected in Nov and now.

  • MAGreenA

    Trump does not give a rats butt about the entities and people affected by this shutdown. National Parks, USGS, NOAA, EPA, FBI, HUD, and a host of others. Notice they are all things he has declared war with even before he became president. He hates government workers and unions, as does his base. They disparage people with career government jobs, benefits, pensions and unions. Bannon and others in Trump's inner circle even said outright they wanted to "deconstruct government". They and others like them hail (or is it heil?) this shutdown. What better way to break down institutions Americans have then to run them out of reserves, run the moral into the ground. cripple their effectiveness, and shutter their doors? In the end Trump will declare them unable to carry out their functions as he bleeds them dry, little by little. This situation is all a grand plan by the GOP and Trump to deconstruct our democracy and replace it with White Nationalist Party ideals. Even David Puke and his KKK herald this shutdown as a win for der fuhrer Trump.

  • heliskier59

    When does this Russian spy face American justice?

  • Fully Hydraulic

    He is in mental decline. And under pressure from Mueller.

    Trump couldn't negotiate a deal with a vending machine without blowing a gasket.

  • Fully Hydraulic

    Remember, the same guy that INSISTS we need a wall, is the same guy who INSISTS that exercise is bad for you.

    And just look at him.

  • Fully Hydraulic

    We need better candidates next time.

  • mark2789

    Republicans are grappling??? Why, the man is insane crazy nuts..and will destroy anything to satisfy his ego. Get rid of him !

  • Justbkind16

    How sad is it that 800,000 workers are not getting paid because the baby in chief got his feelings hurt by Coulter?

  • andan04

    I'm not exactly the Secretary of Defense but illegal border crossings at a 46-year low doesn't constitute an emergency in my mind.