He really did it. President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in an attempt to bypass Congress and redirect existing funds toward construction of his promised wall along the southern border.
The emergency declaration is intended to enable the president to tap into more than $6.5 billion in taxpayer funding to use for additional barriers. Under the emergency declaration and other executive authority, the White House is seeking to draw $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction program and $600 million from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture fund.
"What's not on that list is taking away disaster relief money from places like Texas and Puerto Rico," Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters, according to CNBC.
The redirected money would be in addition to the $1.375 billion for border fencing approved by Congress on Thursday as part of a spending deal to avoid another partial government shutdown. Trump signed the spending bill on Friday. Combined, the total funding for barriers would be $8 billion.
Senior White House officials said Friday that the money would be “back-filled” in the president’s 2020 budget request, Roll Call’s John T. Bennett reported, adding, “That means U.S. taxpayers would pay for every penny of the wall in fiscal 2019 — even though Trump long promised that Mexico would pay for it.”
The president’s declaration met with significant opposition and is certain to generate lawsuits and legislative challenges. A number of Republicans cautioned Trump against making the declaration, and Democrats called the move a violation of the constitution’s separation of powers and a threat to Congress’ most fundamental responsibility, the power of the purse.
"This is plainly a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. “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.”
In rambling remarks from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he anticipated the legal challenge winding up before the Supreme Court — and he seemingly undermined his case for an emergency. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this,” Trump said, “but I’d rather do it much faster.”