WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — When President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday that averted another costly government shutdown, he quickly pivoted toward declaring a national emergency on the United States-Mexico border in an attempt to secure funding for his promised border wall.
The apparent plan is to divert unused money from Department of Defense construction projects to funding for the wall, using the national emergency as a way to get around Congress to do so. Congress allocated only $1.375 billion toward the building of a fence on 55 miles of the Texas border in the bill, a fraction of the approximately $5 billion he wanted.
"That raises a series of questions about whether or not the president can then supersede Congress' will by declaring an emergency and doing what Congress didn't authorize via appropriations," said Jennifer Daskal, a law professor at American University's Washington College of Law, in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group.
There could be as much as $21 billion in unused Department of Defense assets available to Trump, according to a report by Foreign Policy.
"We have certain funds that are being used at the discretion of generals, at the discretion of the military. Some of them haven't been allocated yet, and some of the generals think that this more important," said Trump, while announcing his plan at the White House on Friday.
But Trump's decision reportedly has fellow Republicans worried that he could be setting a precedent to be used by Democrats in the future to push their own preferred policies.
"Unfortunately, we live in such partisan times that I think if we have a Democrat president, he or she will do everything possible to advance the administration's policy goals," David Rivkin, a conservative commentator and lawyer with Baker Hostetler, told SBG. "And this is irrespective of what President Trump has done here."
Before any long-term impacts can be realized, Trump is likely going to have to face a legal battle. Barely hours after Trump's declaration, the American Civil Liberties Union announced plans to sue Trump over what it believes is a "blatantly illegal" national emergency.
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