Senate Republicans are publicly opposing Trump’s idea of declaring a national emergency to secure the border wall funding that he wants.
Sen. Lindsey Graham has said it could expose divides so deep as to start a “war within the Republican party” if Trump goes ahead.
At least eight GOP senators have publicly stated their opposition, while Trump toyed with declaring a national emergency, which would give him a special powers to bypass Congress.
Trump hinted on Friday that he could use Tuesday’s State of the Union address to declare a national emergency.
He told reporters that there is a “good chance” that he will declare a national emergency over the issue and said: “Well, I’m saying listen closely to the State of the Union,” he said. “I think you’ll find it very exciting.”
Graham, speaking in South Carolina on Monday, said that he was “not optimistic” that the GOP could come to a border wall funding deal with Democrats. He said that Trump would likely have to “go it alone” by declaring a national emergency, The Hill reported.
By Graham’s own admission, this would cause huge conflict within the party: “But there could be a war within the Republican Party over the wall,” he said.
Graham said he would “stand with” Trump if he decides to declare a national emergency and urged other Republicans to do the same and “get behind the president.”
Opposition from senators
But other GOP senators have signaled that they oppose declaring a national emergency, even if in principle they support building a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins said she is “in general opposed to the president using the national emergencies act,” The Hill reported.
She said she believed it was “of dubious constitutionality” to use the act in this way and said she does not think “the intent was for it to be used in this kind situation.”
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said that he is “in favor” of Trump’s proposed border wall but said that, when it comes to declaring a national emergency, “I think it sets a dangerous precedent and I hope he doesn’t do it,” Politico reported.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, said that he and ” a lot of my colleagues” have concerns about that strategy. “There’s a lot of reservations in the conference about it and I hope they don’t go down that path,” he said, according to The Hill.
Alabama’s Sen. Richard Shelby said that he “wouldn’t prefer” a national emergency over other ways to try and secure the funding, The Hill reported.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said he would rather avoid a national emergency and is worried about giving the executive branch too much power, according to Politico.
Utah’s Mitt Romney said he would rather “follow the legislative process to secure the border” in a “normal” way, according to Politico. He said he “will be studying” a vote to block Trump from moving forward with declaring a national emergency.
Some senators said they would not necessarily vote against declaring a national emergency, but are still not convinced that it is the best strategy to get funding.
Sen. Ron Johnson of North Carolina said he wants the Trump administration to “lay out the legal case” for a national emergency, according to Politico, but that he is “highly sympathetic” with Trump’s desire to get the money.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said that declaring a national emergency would be a “dangerous step” and warned that it will likely end up facing numerous court challenges. “The president’s going to get sued and it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal,” he said, according to Politico.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately cautioned Trump against using an emergency declaration as it could divide the Republican party and may ultimately force Trump to issue his first-ever veto, The Washington Post reported.
Legal challenges against declaring a national emergency
Experts are divided over whether it’s legal for Trump to use a national-emergency declaration for a wall. If he declares one, it is widely expected that he will face opposition from Congress in court, though those challenges could face their own roadblocks.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would “look at any legislative way to stop” a national emergency declaration, The Hill reported.