Key members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus have told Donald Trump that they don’t want him to take the extreme step of declaring a national emergency as a means to build his wall at the southern border.
These House Republicans in the conservative group have privately expressed their objections to Trump and members of his administration. Their fear is that a declaration will lead to a long legal standoff that Democrats would eventually win. This would then set an unwanted precedent where the president could use such emergency powers to do anything he or she wants that Congress refuses to approve.
“I do see the potential for national emergencies being used for every single thing that we face in the future where we can’t reach an agreement. That’s the slippery slope that I’m concerned about,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Trump ally, told POLITICO. “The administration is well aware of the ability to use national emergency powers and the reluctance to do so from House members.”
According to more than a dozen members of Congress and congressional aides, their preferred approach is for Trump to hold out for a deal with Democrats to end the shutdown, no matter how long it takes.
Trump’s discussion of using an emergency declaration to build the border wall has split the GOP caucus in the House. Some members voted with Democrats on their bills to provide funding for key agencies, but many others are sticking with Trump, no matter how severe the political consequences might be.
Republican House members have expressed grave constitutional concerns since Congress has the power of the purse, and needs to appropriate funds for specific purposes, such as building 3,000 mile walls. They are looking for alternatives that offer more legally sound ways for Trump to get the money that is needed to build the border wall.
“Trump has more options on the table than what I have read about, and we’ve shared some of those ideas,” said GOP Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio. He has sponsored a House bill that would allow private citizens to make monetary contributions toward building and maintaining border walls.
But even though House conservatives don’t want the president to issue an emergency declaration, they still will support him if he eventually does it.
“I think the president would find broad support for an emergency declaration if it’s determined that ultimately he has to do it,” Meadows said.
Meadows also believes that Democrats might compromise on the wall, and Trump should explore all other options before taking such an extreme step.
Trump’s threats of declaring an emergency have put House conservatives in a bind. They spent years fighting against President Barack Obama for executive overreach, especially on immigration.
Some members of the House Freedom Caucus still have Trump’s ear, and they know that he will listen to them. They have been working hard to persuade him to avoid an emergency declaration. The group helped convince the president to shut down the government in the first place, so they know that their opinions do count in the Oval Office.
If Donald Trump does not declare an emergency, it may be due to the strong opinions of Freedom Caucus members who advised him not to do it.