After battling for weeks over funding for a border wall, overseeing the longest government shutdown in US history, and finally signing on to a deal to fund the government, President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over a contrived crisis at the US-Mexico border.
On Friday, Trump invoked his power to declare a national emergency in a unilateral effort to make progress on the border wall Congress has thus far denied him. He initially demanded $5 billion for the construction of about 200 miles of barrier at the border, and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly refused to go anywhere near that figure. He got about $1.3 billion for border fencing in the deal he finally agreed to, a far cry from the desired amount. So he’s going with a national emergency to get more.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it, one way or another, we have to do it,” he said in a speech at the White House Rose Garden on Friday.
Trump will try to cobble together funds from a number of areas and redirect them toward border wall construction. White House officials ahead of the announcement on Friday said he would redirect about $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, an account funded by money seized by the US government; $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense’s counter-drug activities; and $3.6 billion from other military construction accounts. Trump won’t try to take anything from disaster relief.
“I didn’t need to do this,” Trump said on Friday. “But I’d rather do it much faster.”
That the president has finally decided to declare an emergency isn’t entirely surprising — he has been wavering on the idea for weeks.
So why declare a national emergency in addition to the spending deal? The short answer is that Trump doesn’t want to admit he lost. He’s already getting less for border fencing than was in the original spending bill he refused to sign in December — and caused a 35-day government shutdown over — so he’s looking to executive action instead.
There has been some debate about whether Trump can indeed declare an emergency at the border considering there isn’t really one, and the answer, at least initially, seems to be that he can.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Thursday that he would support the emergency declaration.