Trump Has More Wall Issues Than He Thinks

K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune via ZUMA

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Can President Trump override the will of Congress and declare an emergency on the southern border even though there isn’t one? Yes. Can he then use money from, say the Pentagon or disaster relief funds to build his wall? Yes again. So why doesn’t he?

Well, it turns out not to be so easy. Greg Sargent spoke with an expert on the National Emergencies Act, who says that Nancy Pelosi has a way to fight back:

Under the National Emergencies Act, or NEA, both chambers of Congress can pass a resolution terminating any presidentially declared national emergency. Elizabeth Goitein, who has researched this topic extensively for the Brennan Center for Justice, tells me that if Pelosi exercises this option, it will ultimately require the Senate to vote on it in some form as well. The NEA stipulates that if one chamber (Pelosi’s House) passes such a resolution, which it easily could do, the other (McConnell’s Senate) must act on it within a very short time period — forcing GOP senators to choose whether to support it.

Alternatively, Goitein notes, the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.

The NEA lays out a timetable for this process, and by Goitein’s reading, it would all take place within the protracted period of barely longer than a month. “In short, there could be 36 days between introduction of the resolution in the House and a vote on the Senate floor,” Goitein told me, “but that vote would have to happen,” and once it did, one way or the other, it would put senators “on record.”

So: Trump declares an emergency. The House votes to terminate it. The Senate is then forced to either vote on the House bill or support Trump by refusing to consider it.

Sargent reports that Republicans are terrified of this option, and I’m not surprised. There would almost certainly be some defections if the bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, and it might very well pass. Trump could still veto it, but then it just comes back again for yet another vote. This is the last thing Republicans want, since most of the country opposes the wall and a pretty fair number of Republican members of Congress oppose it too—especially if it takes money away from disaster relief or defense spending.

Then again, on the other side of all this is having to face the wrath of Trump. This also terrifies Republicans. So sad.

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"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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