Trump Veto In Favor Of Border Wall Drives Lawmakers To Limit Emergency Powers

Trump vetoes bill
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President Donald Trump, on Friday, used his veto power for the first time to overrule the Congress after their successful vote to block his border wall emergency declaration. As a result, many lawmakers are now looking to how they might limit such moves in the future, including reeling in the presidential powers granted by the National Emergencies Act of 1976, The New York Times reports.

“Ultimately, this is a problem created by Congress, and it has been allowed to persist by Congress,” said Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican. “Congress is starting to wake up to the fact that over time it has delegated out too much power.”

Last week, Lee introduced a bill intended to avoid such a showdown between the president and Congress. The bill would have allowed the current emergency declaration over the border wall to continue while simultaneously refining in presidential power for future declarations.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, however, expressed that she would block the bill in the House, essentially refusing to provide short-term cover for the president and congressional Republicans and to force the vote, and ultimately Trump’s veto, instead.

While some Republican politicians oppose the expansive nature of the National Emergencies Act in principal, indicating that it cedes too much power to the president, others are more pragmatic, simply worrying that a future Democratic president could use the act to their own ends.

Indeed, Lee joined 11 other Republican Senators to cross the aisle and vote with the Democrats to block the emergency declaration, though the majority fell short of the two thirds margin needed to override a presidential veto. That still isn’t the end of the matter, however, as ultimately the constitutionality of Trump’s declaration will need to play out in the courts. It is possible that the congressional vote could be taken into consideration by judges hearing the case, including the Supreme Court, as evidence of congressional intent when it comes to this particular aspect of the law.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell said last week that it is possible that the Senate might take up the issue again through a hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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“If Congress has grown uneasy with this law, as many have, then we should amend it,” he said. “If the 116th Congress regrets the degree of flexibility that the 94th Congress gave the executive, the 116th Congress can do something about it.”

Lee likewise expressed a commitment to finding a solution, with the border wall declaration the potentially galvanizing issue to drive bipartisan progress.

“This has been created over time under Congresses and White Houses of every conceivable partisan configuration,” Lee said. “It needs to be a bipartisan solution.”