By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution on Friday aimed at ending President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on border security, taking the first step to assert congressional power over the expenditure of taxpayer funds.
About 226 lawmakers have joined the sponsor, Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro, in backing the legislation, indicating it will pass the chamber, which is controlled by Democrats. But its future in the Republican-run Senate was less clear.
“What the president is attempting is an unconstitutional power grab,” Castro said in a conference call with reporters. He called on all members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — to support the resolution terminating Trump’s emergency declaration, saying it tramples on congressional authority and would set a dangerous precedent.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress decides how taxpayer dollars are spent. The president can, however, veto spending bills.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the full House could vote on the resolution as soon as Tuesday.
Trump declared a national emergency last week in order to take money Congress had appropriated for other activities and use it to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump’s move came after Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion this year to help build the wall.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he also plans to introduce such a resolution in the Senate. The resolution needs only a simple majority in both houses. But to get this majority in the Senate, at least four of 53 Republicans would have to join in, assuming all 45 Democrats and two independents back the measure.
However, any such legislation would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote of support in both chambers.
The issue is also in the courts already. A coalition of 16 U.S. states led by California sued Trump and top members of his administration on Monday to block his decision to declare the emergency.
The lawsuit said Trump’s declaration was a misuse of presidential power.
Congress this month appropriated $1.37 billion for building border barriers as part of a wide-ranging spending bill enacted following a long battle in Congress, which included a 35-day partial government shutdown when agency funding lapsed on Dec. 22.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by David Gregorio)