Washington, DC – The Democratic Speaker of the House said on Thursday that if President Donald Trump used a national emergency declaration for a border wall, Democrats would retaliate with a gun control national emergency when they retook the White House.
“A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”
Pelosi argued that the real national emergency is gun control, not border security, according to The Hill.
Her remarks fell on the first anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 students and staff were gunned down by a former student.
“Let’s talk about today: The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America,” Pelosi said. “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.”
“But a Democratic president can do that,” she added.
The Speaker said she didn’t support any President using national emergencies to advance pet projects, but rather, issued a warning of retaliation.
“I’m not advocating for any president doing an end-run around Congress,” Pelosi said. “I’m just saying that the Republicans should have some dismay about the door that they are opening, the threshold they are crossing.”
Threats aside, President Trump announced Friday morning that he would declare a National Emergency on the southern border, using his executive powers to fund the construction of a wall, FOX News reported.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border… one way or the other, we have to do it,” the President said during a press conference in the Rose Garden.
President Trump signed a funding package on Thursday night that gave only $1.4 billion for border security, FOX News reported.
Numerous Democratic states’ attorneys general have announced their intention to file legal challenges to President Trump’s declaration, but Pelosi has not confirmed that move.
“We will review our options, and I’m not prepared to give any preference to any one of them right now,” she said.
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said Democrats would make a legal challenge.
“We think the President would be on very weak legal ground to proceed on this, and I’m sure that if he chose to do that, that we would test it in the courts,” Hoyer said. “And you’ve heard a lot of Republicans express a similar sentiment.”
Scholars of presidential powers have said that there’s nothing Congress can do procedurally to stop President Trump, NPR reported.
“Congress chose not to put any substantial — or really any — barriers on the President’s ability to declare a national emergency,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told NPR.
“So if he can really just sign his name to a piece of paper, whether it is a real emergency or not, that creates a state of emergency that gives him access to these special powers that are contained in more than 100 different provisions of law that Congress has passed over the years,” Goitein explained.
Congress last tried to fix their lack of control over national emergency powers after Watergate, NPR reported.
The National Emergencies Act of 1976 requires not only that the president formally declare a national emergency, but also that he or she cite the specific statutory authority they sought to use.
Under the 1976 reform legislation, an emergency declaration lapses after one year unless the President formally renews it, according to NPR.
The bill also set it up so that Congress could end a national emergency with a majority vote of both houses and without the President’s approval.
But in 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court said the veto-free arrangement was unconstitutional, and Congress had to change it, NPR reported.
So the act was revised to a joint resolution signed by the President.
Now if the President vetoes a joint resolution to end a national emergency, Congress needs a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override and end the national emergency, NPR reported.