Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic lawmakers denounced President Donald Trump’s plans to declare a national emergency to obtain funding for a border wall, joining others in their party who are calling the president’s proposed actions an illegal power grab.
The president announced his plans on Friday before he signed a massive spending bill that averted another government shutdown, immediately touching off another bitter partisan war.
“Declaring this a state of emergency is obviously unconstitutional, but President Trump doesn’t seem to care,” said Murphy in a statement. “Trump says he’s some master negotiator, but he’s bungled this thing from the beginning.”
Murphy was even harsher in a tweet.
“You know what’s an actual emergency? That Trump is so bad at this job that he couldn’t get his top legislative priority done when he controlled every branch of government and is now panicking and doing unconstitutional things,” Murphy tweeted.
The spending bill approved by both Democrats and Republicans Thursday contained more than $1.3 billion for border security, but not the funding amount Trump sought for his wall.
Displeased with the deal between congressional leaders, Trump announced he would use emergency powers to secure more than $8 billion to construct 234 miles of a barrier between the United States and Mexico, a move congressional Democrats say they will challenge both in court and through attempts to pass legislation aimed at stopping the construction.
“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a joint statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
It’s not clear where the money to build the wall would come from, but much of it is likely to come from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. That could affect many military bases across the nation that are slated to receive funding for new facilities, but it’s not likely to impact the Naval Submarine Base in New London, which has not received any construction or repair money from this account for years.
Still, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, condemned diverting funds from Pentagon construction projects.
“Instead of promoting U.S. national security, this announcement will lead to the delay or cancellation of important military construction projects which directly support our service members conducting missions throughout the country and across the world,” Courtney said. “And because this is only a portion of the funds the President claims he needs for his border wall, it calls into question whether future declarations could disrupt future projects currently planned across Connecticut in the coming decade.”
Some Republican lawmakers tried to dissuade the president from declaring a national emergency, saying it would allow a Democratic president to use the same tactic to circumvent Congress and tackle climate change or gun control.
That possibility was not lost on Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, who tweeted:
“Huh. A National Emergency declaration….interesting precedent. Here are things killing many more Americans than illegal immigration: Drug overdoses. Gun violence. Double bacon cheeseburgers. Drunk driving. Effects of climate change. Just sayin.’”
Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, said “it is the job of Congress to allocate funding and President Trump should not initiate this power grab of declaring an emergency where one does not actually exist.”
Other Democratic lawmakers called the situation on the border a humanitarian crisis, not a matter of national security.
“What is happening at the border is a humanitarian emergency of President Trump’s own making, not a national emergency necessitating an emergency declaration,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “President Trump’s national emergency declaration is sure to be challenged in Congress and the courts, and should be swiftly struck down.”
In his address on Friday, Trump acknowledged that his declaration of a national emergency would face court challenges, and that he could lose in the lower courts.
“Hopefully we’ll get a fair shake” in the Supreme Court, Trump said. “We’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes.”
The president also said, “Sadly, we’ll be sued, and sadly, we’ll go through a process.”
Every member of Connecticut’s congressional delegation voted Thursday for the spending package that averts another shutdown.
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said the declaration of a national emergency “in order to meet a meaningless campaign promise is an extraordinary abuse of power and a damper on the bipartisan agreement that was reached.”
“As Speaker Pelosi said, on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Parkland, we have not even addressed a true National Emergency, the epidemic of gun violence in our country,” Larson said.
The spending package signed by Trump Friday funds nine departments until the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30, and provides some new funding for programs important to Connecticut.
The funding bill contains $1.94 billion for Amtrak, including $650 million dedicated to the Northeast Corridor.
The spending package also contains $5 million for the U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London, bringing the total federal investment in the project to $10 million, and $14 million for Long Island Sound Geographic Program, which aims to improve the water quality of the sound and restore habitat around the sound watershed.
The massive bill also contains two amendments concerning the pyrrhotite contained in the foundations of many Connecticut homes that has caused concrete to crumble.
One amendment allocates $100,000 for the U.S. Geological Survey to develop a map showing pyrrhotite occurrences across the United States, to try to determine the reach of the problem.
Larson and Courtney sponsored that amendment, as well as another with Murphy in the Senate that would require the Comptroller General of the United States and relevant regulators, under the Department of the Treasury, to study the financial impact of the pyrrhotite in concrete home foundations.
The spending measure also boosts federal money to combat opioid addiction and for Community Development Block Grants used by state and local governments to fund housing programs.