Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Monday that the White House Counsel’s Office is exploring the legality of unilaterally appropriating funds for the construction of a border wall by declaring a national emergency.
VP Pence says the White House counsel is looking at the legality of a national emergency declaration, to free up unobligated military construction funds for wall building. Pence says a decision has not yet been made.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) January 7, 2019
Pence’s comments to reporters — made as the ongoing government shutdown enters its third week — echo President Trump’s Friday threat to bypass Congress and fund the border wall through an emergency declaration.
“We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly,” Trump said during a Friday news conference in the White House rose garden. “But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we are giving that a shot.”
Trump reiterated the threat Sunday after acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s State of the Union that the president had ordered “every single cabinet secretary and the Office of Management and Budget to go out and find money that can be used legally to guard the southern border.”
Should Democrats continue to refuse his demand for $5.7 billion in funding for the construction of a “steel slat barrier” on the southern border, Trump could unilaterally appropriate military funds toward that end under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, his allies have argued.
Democrats, however, have said the situation at the southern border, where a record number of families have arrived requesting asylum in recent months, does not rise to a national emergency.
“Look, if Harry Truman couldn’t nationalize the steel industry during wartime, this president doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multi-billion dollar wall on the border,” Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said Sunday on State of the Union. “So that’s a non-starter.”