Politics & Policy

Sasse Backs Trump’s Emergency Declaration Despite Executive-Overreach Concern

Sen. Ben Sasse (right) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) on Thursday voted against a resolution condemning President Trump’s national-emergency declaration despite his repeated insistence that the declaration usurped Congress’s constitutional authority.

In a statement explaining his decision to oppose the resolution, Sasse acknowledged that in its current form the National Emergencies Act of 1976 was “overly broad” and said that, while he would like to reform the law, Trump’s emergency declaration does not violate it.

“We have an obvious crisis at the border — everyone who takes an honest look at the spiking drug and human trafficking numbers knows this — and the President has a legal path to a rapid response under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA). I think that law is overly broad and I want to fix it, but at present Nancy Pelosi doesn’t, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution,” the statement read. “As a constitutional conservative, I believe that the NEA currently on the books should be narrowed considerably. That’s why I’m an original sponsor of Senator Lee’s legislation, and it is why I have repeatedly gone to the White House to seek support for NEA reform.”

Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) called Trump Wednesday afternoon in an ultimately futile effort to secure a compromise whereby the White House would approve reforms to the National Emergencies Act in exchange for Republican support for Trump’s emergency declaration. Sasse joined Senators Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R., Texas) at a White House meeting Wednesday evening, where they, too, tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a compromise that would address Republican concerns regarding executive overreach, according to the Washington Post.

Following Trump’s February 14 national-emergency declaration, Sasse expressed concerns about the recent influx of illegal immigrants arriving at the southern border, but warned conservatives that resorting to a national emergency declaration to fund the wall would prove costly in time.

“We absolutely have a crisis at the border, but as a Constitutional conservative I don’t want a future Democratic President unilaterally rewriting gun laws or climate policy,” Sasse said in a statement provided to National Review on February 15. “If we get used to presidents just declaring an emergency any time they can’t get what they want from Congress, it will be almost impossible to go back to a Constitutional system of checks and balances. Over the past decades, the legislative branch has given away too much power and the executive branch has taken too much power.”

The resolution, which Trump has repeatedly vowed to veto, passed 5149 with the support of twelve Republicans.

Even assuming Trump’s veto is not overridden, the emergency declaration will still have to overcome numerous legal challenges before the $3.6 billion in military funding that Trump requested can be redirected for the construction of a border wall.

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