McConnell: National Emergency Should Force Dems to Rethink Border Appropriations

McConnell: National Emergency Should Force Dems to Rethink Border Appropriations
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border on Feb. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said today that President Trump’s national emergency declaration to secure border wall funding should be seen by Democrats as an impetus to increase funding in the next round of appropriations, while Dems declared that, unchecked, the declaration “would fundamentally alter the balance of powers” in the United States.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters this morning that Trump is expected to sap some $3.6 billion from military construction funds as he pulls together $8 billion, including about $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund and $2.5 billion from the Department Department’s counter-narcotics programs.

Mulvaney said dipping into coffers used for base repairs and improvements “shouldn’t surprise anybody… the president, under certain circumstances, has a right to use military construction dollars in order to build things to help defend the nation.”

“You’ll notice what’s not on that list is taking away any of Puerto Rico or Texas’ disaster relief money. That is not part of the plan,” he added. “We assess that with the $8 billion, we should have sufficient money this year to do what we wanted to do with the $5.7 worth of money that the president asked for originally based upon the request from DHS and our border.”

At a Rose Garden press conference today, Trump was about the impact on men and women in the military and their families from the funds being reprogrammed.

“We had certain funds that are being used at the discretion of generals, at the discretion of the military. Some of them haven’t been allocated yet and some of the generals think that this is more important,” Trump replied. “I was speaking to a couple of them. They think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said what were you going to use it for and I won’t go into details but didn’t sound too important to me.”

Trump said he expects to be taken to court over the national emergency declaration but predicted the administration should win.

“I went through Congress, I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn’t supposed to get one dollar, not one dollar, he’s not going to get one dollar. Well, I got $1.4 billion but I’m not happy with it,” he said. “I also got billions and billions of dollars for other things port of entries, lots of different things the purchase of drug equipment, more than we were even requesting. In fact, the primary fight was over the wall. Everything else we have so much as I said I don’t know what to do with it we have so much money. But on the wall, they skimped so I did — I was successful in that sense, but I want to do it faster.”

McConnell said in a statement today that Trump’s decision to announce emergency action “is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest.”

“I urge my Democratic colleagues to quickly get serious, put partisanship aside, and work with the president and our homeland security experts to provide the funding needed to secure our borders as we begin the next round of appropriations,” he said.

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Trump’s “unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation.”

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution.  The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available,” they vowed. “This issue transcends partisan politics and goes to the core of the Founders’ conception for America, which commands Congress to limit an overreaching executive. The President’s emergency declaration, if unchecked, would fundamentally alter the balance of powers, inconsistent with our Founders’ vision.”

Pelosi and Schumer called “upon our Republican colleagues to join us to defend the Constitution.”

“Just as both parties honored our oath to protect the American people by passing the conference committee bill, the Congress on a bipartisan basis must honor the Constitution by defending our system of checks and balances,” the Dem leaders said. “The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”