Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Trump weighs declaring emergency

SHUTDOWN:The US president might declare a national emergency to order a border wall built while also signing a budget, but success is not guaranteed, sources said


Migrant families from Honduras and Guatemala seeking asylum walk down a dirt road after illegally crossing the Rio Grande into the US from Mexico in Penitas, Texas, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

US President Donald Trump, facing the prospect within days of the longest US government shutdown in history, was considering declaring a national emergency that would likely escalate a policy dispute with Democrats over his proposed US-Mexico border wall into a court test of presidential power.

To escape a political trap of his own making, Trump on Thursday hinted strongly that he might declare an emergency so that he could bypass the US Congress to get funding for his wall, which was a central promise of his 2016 election campaign.

Trump is demanding that the Congress provide US$5.7 billion in US taxpayer funding for the wall.

That is opposed by Democrats in Congress, who have called the wall an ineffective, outdated answer to a complex problem.

The standoff has left a quarter of the federal government closed down and hundreds of thousands of federal employees staying home on furlough or working for no pay and set to miss their paychecks.

The partial federal government shutdown yesterday entered its 21st day. It is to become the longest shutdown ever today.

With no Capitol Hill compromise in sight, Trump on Thursday during a trip to the Texas border publicly ruminated about declaring an emergency.

A close Trump confidant judged that the time for such a step had come.

“It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works,” US Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement

The Wall Street Journal, NBC and the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that the White House had asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to look into diverting money from its budget toward the wall and to explore how fast construction could begin under an emergency declaration.

Reuters could not immediately verify the accuracy of the reports.

Critics of the national emergency strategy have said that it might be illegal. In any case, it was almost certain to trigger an immediate court challenge from Democrats, including an accusation of trying to circumvent the Congress’ power over the national purse strings.

That would push the wall impasse into the courts, allowing the government to be fully reopened while the judges weigh the case, which could take months.

“After the emergency announcement, the path toward construction via executive order may be as unclear as a storm at midnight. But it will at least allow the president to move out of the corner he’s boxed himself into,” said Charles Gabriel, analyst at strategy firm Capital Alpha Partners.

An emergency declaration would come with risks. Even some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress have signaled worries about such an action. Given that the US Constitution gives the Congress the power to set spending priorities and appropriate money, they worry about a tough legal fight and an unwise precedent.

“If Trump crosses this Rubicon, what would prevent a Democratic president from declaring a ‘national emergency’ on Day 1 of their administration on climate change and/or healthcare?” Chris Krueger, an analyst at strategy firm Cowen Washington Research Group, asked in a commentary note.

US Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who has had good relations with Trump, said that declaring a national emergency would be “wrong, but I think that’s his only way out.”

Manchin said that if Trump made the declaration, the Congress might immediately move to pass bills funding the various agencies, knowing that the president would then be able to sign them into law.

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