President Donald Trump declared a national emergency after signing a bipartisan spending bill to avert another shutdown. In doing so, the president invoked extraordinary executive power that’s seldom used to bypass the constitutionally granted power of Congress to control government expenditure.
The emergency is designed to help the president get his border wall funding, a key part of his promises during the campaign.
Democrats have expressed their anger towards the declaration. There are also GOP members who are uneasy about the decision, especially because of the kind of precedent it could set. Lawmakers who want to stop the president on this will have two options:
First, Congress can vote to shoot down the declaration but such a motion would need bipartisan support to pass. On the other hand, the declaration can be challenged in court.
Democrats who currently control the House are expected to drive the opposition. Although senior party leaders haven’t yet revealed the path they intend to take in challenging Trump’s decision, it’s very likely that both options will be explored. This kind of declaration is not unprecedented but it’s almost never used. That’s why there are a few questions in the minds of many Americans that need to be answered.
What Can Congress Do?
It’s important to note that the president has the prerogative to declare a national emergency as part of his executive power. Congress cannot stop a declaration. But there’s one check built into the law that can easily be explored. Under the National Emergencies Act, the House and the Senate have the power to take what’s called a “joint resolution of termination” to end the emergency.
In other words, while the president is entitled to declare a national emergency as he sees fit, Congress has the power to override his decision.
Such a resolution can be brought up by any chamber of Congress. But in this scenario, it’s very likely that Democrats will take the lead with their majority in the House. The law dictates that if the resolution is passed in one chamber of Congress, then the other chamber must bring it to a vote within 18 days. Although Democrats hold the minority in the Senate, they will only need a handful of votes to have it passed.
What is Trump’s Next Move?
The president can still veto a resolution to terminate an emergency as long as it hasn’t been voted for by a supermajority in both chambers of Congress. This is where it gets tricky for Democrats. It’s very likely that Trump will veto such a resolution unless a good number of GOP Senators are willing to step in and ensure a supermajority.
Will GOP Lawmakers Get On Board?
So far there have been at least half a dozen Republican senators who have expressed their disapproval of the emergency declaration including Senators Susan Collins R-ME, Rand Paul R-KY, and Patrick J. Toomey R-PE. Despite this, it’s highly unlikely that Democrats will be able to get the supermajority they need to override a veto. The other option to challenge this in court can take years.