McConnell Cautioning White House a National Emergency Would be 'Contentious' Process

A migrant jumps the border fence to get into the U.S. side

WASHINGTON -- Responding to reports that he's trying to discourage President Trump from declaring a national emergency to secure funds for a border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he's simply been explaining the process to the president.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to go the route of a national emergency declaration if Congress doesn't reach a border deal by the next appropriations deadline, Feb. 15. That would allow Trump to sap the funds from military construction coffers and bypass congressional approval, but first the executive action would likely end up in court.

But the Washington Post reported last week that McConnell warned Trump a resolution of disapproval could pass the Senate, with only four GOP defections needed.

McConnell declined to tell reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday how he would vote on such a measure. "We don't know what route the president is going to take so I'm not going to speculate on it at this point," he said. "As you know, it is an expedited procedure with a simple majority and there is some time delay associated with it, assuming it comes over from the House. But I'm going to withhold judgment about that until we see what he does."

In discussing the process with Trump, McConnell said that "we've not had the procedure before because the national emergencies that have been issued in the past have not been contentious."

"I'm pretty sure that this would be and, as we were discussing earlier, it's a fairly rapid process with a simple majority vote privileged in the Senate, so all I've just discussed with the administration assembly the process is simply the process," he added.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told CNN that a national emergency is "not my preferred choice, but I don't think the world will spin off its axis if the president does it."

"Now, some of my colleagues on the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, particularly Republicans, are all atwitter about the fact that he might do it. But what I've learned in this place, talk is cheap. Let's see how they might vote. If the president does it, I'm willing to bet a lot of Republicans are saying it's a bad idea and he shouldn't do will vote to support him," he added. "Now, I could be wrong. I'm going to vote to support him."

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump called on Congress "to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business."

"My administration has sent to the Congress a common-sense proposal to end the crisis on our southern border," he said. "It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry. In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that "it's when the president interferes that there is a problem" with budget agreements.

"So my advice to the president, you don't want to shut down the government, if you don't want to have to declare a national emergency, which I'm opposed to and I don't think will happen, stay out of it," he said. "Let the Senate and House work their way and we can succeed."