With an impasse existing between Democratic leaders in Congress and President Donald Trump preventing the end of a partial government shutdown, the White House is considering its options on how to move forward — and how to build a border wall without the need for Congressional approval.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) emerged from a meeting with Trump on Friday without a plan for how to re-open parts of the government. Funding to keep the government running was ceased after Trump and Congress failed to strike a deal in late December over the issue of funding a wall project at the southern U.S. border.
Trump has stated he will not sign any bills into law funding the government until it also includes over $5 billion in funds for a border wall. According to sources involved in White House strategy, the president may use an extreme option: declaring a national emergency in order to allow them to reallocate funds in the Department of Defense and other executive branch departments to shift money to build the wall themselves, according to reporting from ABC News.
Speaking to reporters at the White House after his meeting with Congressional leaders, Trump confirmed that he may be thinking about doing just that. "I can do it if I want. I may do it," he said, the Washington Times reported.Discussions within the White House are still at the "working level" stages, as the legal maneuverings necessary to declare a national emergency haven't been worked out yet, the sources familiar with the talks said.
Some on social media disputed that Trump would have the legal authority to do so, however, including USA Today's at-large correspondent Gregory Korte.
"This isn't the way national emergencies work," Korte explained in the first of many tweets. "Under the National Emergencies Act, Trump can only exercise emergency powers explicitly granted to him by Congress."
Korte went on to explain in a separate tweet that a process existed that would prevent Trump from reallocating the funds from other departments.
"[O]ne thing a national emergency can't do is spend money that hasn't been appropriated by Congress. So all Trump can do is speed up the planning for a wall he still doesn't have the money to build."
Korte cited U.S. code that backed up his assertions, available to read at the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University.
Regardless of whether Trump has the authority to move the funds or not, and to begin construction of a wall using them, it's not likely to be a quick fix, as Trump suggested it would be in his remarks earlier on Friday. Chances are strong that the administration would be sued if they attempted such a move, and that a court could put a stay on construction of the border wall if that happened.