President Donald Trump does have the authority to declare a national emergency in order to build his promised border barrier between the United States and Mexico if gridlock in Congress makes it necessary, a Republican lawmaker says.
“He has the authority, and it’s not unique,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said Wednesday at Conversations with Conservatives, a monthly press question-and-answer session hosted by conservative lawmakers and The Heritage Foundation. “We know that, for instance, there [have] been almost 60 [emergency declarations] in the last 25 to 30 years. There have almost been 60 emergency declarations by presidents, and I think the number is 30-some-odd that are still enforced.”
On Jan. 25, Trump signed stopgap budget legislation funding the government through Feb. 15, ending the 35-day partial federal government shutdown stemming from Democrats’ refusal to appropriate the $5.7 billion Trump requested for a barrier along the southern border.
Trump didn’t raise the prospect of declaring a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but Biggs said that option, though not his first choice, is still on the table.
“I am always leery about seeing the executive take action when I would prefer there would be legislative [action], but actually Congress has delegated this authority to the president,” the Arizona lawmaker said, citing Title 10, Section 284. “It isn’t even [just] the president; the secretary of defense can go in and say we can build fences, walls, roads, other infrastructure … .”
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, says Trump has already compromised in an attempt to work with Democrats.
“I mean, you remember back to the campaign, he was talking about a ‘big, beautiful wall’ from sea to shining sea, 40-foot high, but with a door … . He’s backed way off of that,” Davidson said, noting how Trump is now calling for a barrier of steel slats rather than a wall made of concrete.
“The Democrats have held at zero,” the Ohio lawmaker noted.
“And I think he could have done a little better job verbalizing how much he’s been willing to move and how little they have,” he said of Trump’s State of the Union address.
“This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier—not just a simple concrete wall,” Trump said in that speech. “It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down.
“Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives. So, let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe,” the president added.
Biggs said that the stalemate over securing funding for the barrier and border security is purely political.
“It’s no longer, quite frankly, about policy. This is about politics, and actually, [Democrats’] animus towards this particular president. And I think that that’s important to point out, constantly, over and over again,” said the second-term lawmaker, who represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.
“We need the fence. We need it, for those of us who live down in Arizona or on other borders, we need that, and I think there is so much to be said about the issue and, hopefully, he’ll keep driving that issue,” he said.