President Donald Trump can declare a national emergency in a scheme to attempt to build his wall on the southern border, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has a counter move that Senate Republicans are terrified she will use.
Rather than shut the government down this month as he did for 35 days until he humiliatingly caved to Democrats because the American people rightfully blamed him and Republicans overwhelmingly for the shutdown, Trump is likely going to declare a national emergency instead, an action that legal experts agree would be unconstitutional in this case.
What would happen is Trump would cite the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to justify building a wall, which he would order the Army Corps of Engineers to build while stealing billions of dollars from the Treasury and Defense Departments to fund it.
However, Trump would still have to seize private land through eminent domain, which would tie him up in costly legal battles and his diverting of funds would violate Congress’ power of the purse since those billions he would be taking were not approved for his wall.
Any declaration of a national emergency would be based on lies as well considering there is not a crisis on the border. A wall won’t stop drugs or illegal immigration, which is at a record low.
And a majority of Americans, 66 percent, oppose declaring a national emergency to build a wall.
That’s a decisive number that is making Republicans incredibly nervous. Do you know what else is making them nervous, downright scared even?
Pelosi and the resolution she could force Senate Republicans to vote on to stop Trump’s scheme in its tracks.
According to the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent, Pelosi could put the GOP between a rock and hard place should Trump desperately try to use a national emergency declaration to build his wall.
Pelosi has a much more immediate way to challenge Trump’s declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, or NEA, both chambers of Congress can pass a resolution terminating any presidentially declared national emergency.
Elizabeth Goitein, who has researched this topic extensively for the Brennan Center for Justice, tells me that if Pelosi exercises this option, it will ultimately require the Senate to vote on it in some form as well. The NEA stipulates that if one chamber (Pelosi’s House) passes such a resolution, which it easily could do, the other (McConnell’s Senate) must act on it within a very short time period — forcing GOP senators to choose whether to support it.
Alternatively, Goitein notes, the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.
And that would piss off a hell of a lot of Americans, including many independent and Republican voters. Republicans would have to choose between alienating them or enraging Trump’s much smaller base of supporters and if the Senate punts, the emergency declaration would be automatically lifted in 36 days, not nearly enough time to build the kind of wall Trump wants.
GOP senators would have to decide between going on record in favor of a presidential declaration of a national emergency for something that everyone knows is based on false pretenses, a move that would be opposed by two-thirds of the country, or opposing it and possibly forcing a Trump veto (which they then would have to decide whether to override), enraging Trump’s base.
“In short, there could be 36 days between introduction of the resolution in the House and a vote on the Senate floor,” Goitein told me, “but that vote would have to happen,” and once it did, one way or the other, it would put senators “on record.”
Pelosi has the power to do this and has likely already begun writing up the resolution so it will be ready the second Trump makes his move. It would pass the House immediately and then move to the Senate, where Republicans have control. At that point, all eyes would be on them and they aren’t going to like it. Many Republicans would likely join Democrats to vote in favor of the resolution, and once passed Trump would have to sign it or veto it. But if it’s passed by a veto-proof margin he’d basically have to sign it or be humiliated when Congress overrides him.
His national emergency would end on the spot and Pelosi would once again have outplayed him.
Either way, Senate Republican leadership would be severely damaged, making Pelosi’s win even more complete.
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