Senate Republicans are divided over the prospects of the president declaring a national emergency from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, with some arguing the move would wind up being counterproductive.
The president has been threatening to use emergency powers to build a wall on the southern border amid a government shutdown, and with a major prime-time address looming, speculation is building that he could make the announcement Tuesday night.
However, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) isn’t sold on Trump’s potential plan to declare a state of emergency to secure border funding, saying it could end up hurting his efforts.
“I think he’ll end up in a lawsuit, so I’m not sure how productive it would be,” Cornyn told IJR in an interview when asked about the president possibly unilaterally obtaining funding for a border wall.
“It will precipitate a lawsuit. So that means rather than solving the problem in days, we are looking at months or years before the issue is resolved,” the former Senate majority whip said. “There’s a hard way, and there’s an easy way to things. I think that would definitely be the hard way.”
Cornyn added that the president should only declare a national emergency under “extraordinary” circumstances.
“Since the Roosevelt era, the executive branch has grabbed more and more power.”
Hours before Trump is set to make an announcement from the Oval Office in prime time on Tuesday night, other Republicans on Capitol Hill are also grappling with the possibility that the commander in chief could go over their heads and declare a state of emergency to secure funding for his promised border wall.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman on the appropriations committee, also wasn’t ready to fully get behind Trump enacting executive powers.
“I don’t know, let’s see what he’s doing,” Shelby said. “I think if he does declare a state of emergency, it would be challenging and probably held up in the courts.”
The Alabama senator added that Trump wouldn’t be the first president to grab more power.
“Since the Roosevelt era, the executive branch has grabbed more and more power from the courts and from the Congress.”
When asked if he supported that shift, Shelby said: “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.”
Republican Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was hesitant to back Trump’s proposed plan to get wall funding as well, adding that the White House also hasn’t given him any heads-up regarding what the president plans to announce.
“I have to see what the president is going to say,” Johnson said.
“I have no idea. I have no idea,” he added when asked if he’s been clued in regarding Tuesday night’s announcement. “It’s up to the president what he announces tonight. I understand his frustration, he’s taking this one to the mat.”
Yet some Republicans appear more prepared to support the president if he plans to take unilateral action Tuesday night.
“I’m sure he’d rather do it through a meeting, a productive one, between him and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told Politico in an interview Tuesday. “I think they both feel that’s maybe not materializing soon. If he sees no agreement coming, I think he’ll push the envelope.”
A GOP leadership aide also told Politico there’s growing support for the move.
“This emergency declaration could be an out for everybody,” the aide said.
However, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is set to become one of the first two Republican women to ever serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, refused to weigh in on the potential bombshell announcement from the president Tuesday night.
“That is up to the president. That’s up to the president. That’s all I’m going to say,” Ernst told IJR.
When asked whether Trump legally had the power declare a national emergency in this instance, Ernst said: “No more questions.”