Republican lawmakers who once loudly protested President Barack Obama’s actions on immigration as executive “overreach” are defending President Donald Trump’s move on Friday to build a wall on the southern border even though Congress has repeatedly rejected his funding demands.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) rushed to the president’s defense Sunday when asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether Trump’s national emergency declaration violated the principles of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which he is a member.
“This is an emergency, this is a crisis. You tell me, how many ― I would ask the Democrats, how many caravans do we have to have before it’s an emergency?” Jordan said, referring to caravans of Central American asylum-seekers.
The conservative Ohio congressman took a different line on executive power during the Obama administration, when the former president took action without explicit congressional approval to give deportation relief to young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. Trump rescinded those protections upon taking office but their status remains in limbo due to pending court cases.
“Congress has the power to address this move by the president, and we must use it. As President Obama said himself in 2013, he is not an emperor; his job is to execute laws that are passed, not write his own. Congress must hold him accountable,” Jordan said in a statement in 2014.
The comparison between Trump’s emergency declaration and his predecessor’s executive action on immigration is not perfect; Trump is claiming authority via the National Emergencies Act of 1976, a legally dubious move in itself. But the case does illustrate the willingness of some Republicans to cheer on a president as he attempts to circumvent Congress ― as long as it’s for a priority they support.
During a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) expressed concern about the consequences of Trump’s emergency declaration setting a precedent for future Democratic administrations. But the Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman, who once called Obama’s actions on immigration “unconstitutional overreach,” did not voice a similar objection to Trump’s attempt to unilaterally secure funds for his border wall.
“It’s certainly the expansion of authority Congress has given past presidents, this president has the same authority. I wish he wouldn’t use it in this case. But again, I understand his frustration,” Johnson said Sunday.
While six previous presidents collectively declared dozens of national emergencies, Trump’s declaration over a border wall would be the first to finance a project that Congress explicitly refused to pay for.
Trump on Friday signed a spending bill into law that allocated $1.375 billion for 55 miles of “pedestrian fencing” along the U.S.-Mexico border ― a fraction of the president’s $5.7 billion demand for more than 200 miles of concrete or steel barriers. He said he would obtain an additional $8 billion in part by redirecting billions that Congress approved for Department of Defense military construction projects.
Democrats hammered the announcement as “unlawful” and vowed to quickly challenge it in the courts. A number of Republicans also expressed concern about a future Democratic president moving to circumvent Congress on gun violence and climate change.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement, arguing that Trump’s move would enable a future president to use the same tactic to implement the Green New Deal, a Democratic-backed economic and environmental initiative.
Trump’s emergency declaration is likely to face a vote of disapproval in both the House and Senate, potentially setting up his first veto as president. It’s not clear, however, whether there is enough support among Republicans to override him.
“I think they’ll pass but when the president will veto them, I don’t think there’s any chance that the veto will be overridden,” Jordan said on Sunday.