Democrats launch resolution to stop Trump border emergency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a resolution aimed at stopping President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the National African American History Month Reception at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

House Democrats introduced the resolution early on Friday, taking the first step to challenge Republican Trump’s assertion that he could take money Congress had appropriated for other activities and use it to build the wall.

Pelosi predicted the resolution would pass the Democratic-controlled House. Action would then move to the Republican-majority Senate, where the measure’s future is less clear.

In any case, Trump vowed on Friday to veto the measure if it passes both chambers and gets to his desk. Congress would then have to muster the two-thirds majority necessary - a very high hurdle - to override his veto in order for the measure to take effect.

“On the wall? Will I veto it? One-hundred percent. One-hundred percent, and I don’t think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want border security, so I can’t imagine that it could survive a veto,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

About 226 House lawmakers have joined the sponsor, Democratic U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, in backing the legislation. The co-sponsors so far include one Republican, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, Castro said.

“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.

Trump declared the national emergency last week after Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion this year to help build the wall.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also plans to introduce such a resolution. The measure needs only a simple majority in both chambers. It will need the votes of at least four Republicans to pass the Senate, assuming all the Democrats and the two independents there back it.

Pelosi rejected Trump’s argument that there is an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. “The president of the United States is declaring a national emergency to honor an applause line in a rally,” she said.

“If the Congress rolls over on this, the president is likely to do it again,” Castro said.

The issue is also in the courts. 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 following a long battle with Trump, which included a 35-day partial government shutdown - the longest in U.S. history - when agency funding lapsed on Dec. 22.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis