Less than two weeks after President Trump declared a national emergency to fund his border wall, House Democrats have voted unanimously to block Trump’s declaration, marking an unprecedented congressional challenge to a president’s authority to invoke emergency powers.
13 Republicans joined with Democrats to admonish Trump’s move — well short of the number Democrats would need to overturn the president’s promised veto.
As The Hill reports, the vote marks the first time Congress has taken formal action to block a presidential emergency declaration since the power was created in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.
Democrats hinged their opposition on the basic principles of constitutional law, arguing that Trump’s unilateral move marks a clear-cut violation of the separation of powers and the unique authority of Congress to dictate where federal dollars are spent.
“If it were truly an emergency we’d all be there with the president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said several hours before Tuesday’s vote, during a conference of the American Legion in Washington.
“Our founders had great vision. They did not want a king.”
As a reminder, here’s a list of all the national emergencies…
- Nov 14, 1979: Blocking Iranian Government Property (EO12170)
- Nov 14, 1994: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (EO 12938)
- Jan 23, 1995: Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process (EO 12947)
- Mar 15, 1995: Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources (EO 12957)
- Oct 21, 1995: Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers (EO 12978)
- Mar 1, 1996: Declaration of a National Emergency and Invocation of Emergency Authority Relating to the Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels (Proc. 6867)
- Nov 3, 1997: Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions With Sudan (EO 13067)
- Jun 26, 2001: Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans (EO 13219)
- Aug 17, 2001: Continuation of Export Control Regulations (EO 13222)
- Sep 14, 2001: Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks (Proc. 7463)
- Sep 23, 2001: Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions With Persons Who Commit, Threaten To Commit, or Support Terrorism (EO 13224)
- Mar 6, 2003: Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe (EO 13288)
- May 22, 2003: Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq Has an Interest (EO 13303)
- May 11, 2004: Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria (EO 13338)
- Jun 16, 2006: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus (EO 13405)
- Oct 27, 2006: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (EO 13413)
- 17. Aug 1, 2007: Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions (EO 13441)
- Jun 26, 2008: Continuing Certain Restrictions With Respect to North Korea & North Korean Nationals (EO 13466)
- Apr 12, 2010: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia (EO 13536)
- Feb 25, 2011: Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya (EO 13566)
- Jul 24, 2011: Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations (EO13581)
- May 16, 2012: Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen (EO 13611)
- Mar 6, 2014: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine (EO 13660)
- Apr 3, 2014: Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan (EO 13664)
- May 12, 2014: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Central African Republic (EO 13667)
- Mar 8, 2015: Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela (EO 13692)
- Apr 1, 2015: Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities (EO 13694)
- Nov 22, 2015: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi (EO 13712)
- Dec 20, 2017: Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption (EO13818)
- Sep 12, 2018: Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election (EO 13848)
- Nov 27, 2018: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Nicaragua (EO 13851)
…and since the National Emergencies Act went into effect in the mid-1970s, a total of 58 have been declared, most of which were in regard to foreign issues (like the War in Iraq).
“People will say, ‘Well, there have been a lot of emergency designations.’ That’s right,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
“This is the only one — the only one — that has been used to get around a Congress’s refusal to appropriate money for a particular objective.”
The Hill points out that passage in the upper chamber is not guaranteed, but appears increasingly likely. Three GOP senators — Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tom Tillis (N.C.) — are already on record in support of the disapproval resolution, and a handful of others are leaning that way.
The president, for his part, has vowed in no uncertain terms to veto the resolution if it travels that far. Neither chamber is expected to have enough support to win a two-thirds vote to override the promised veto.
“They’re not going to be able to reverse this emergency declaration. But it does show that they’re in denial that there’s a crisis at the border,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill ahead of the vote.
“Pelosi goes to the border and waves a Mexican flag saying there’s no crisis the same week that an illegal alien goes to Napa right in her own backyard and attacks a cop,” he continued.
“I mean it’s it’s happening every day. There’s a real crisis and the president is taking steps to keep our country safe.”
No matter, what, Trump already called the endgame – “we’ll see you in the Supreme Court.”