U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he believes President Donald Trump should take it back on declaring a national emergency at the border, even as the Senate plans to vote against the president’s declaration.
The Washington Examiner reported on Alexander’s remarks Thursday. He said the president should “ask his lawyers to take a second look at an existing funding authority that the president has to consider construction of the 234 miles of border wall that do not require a formal declaration of a national emergency.”
Basically, it would set a bad precedent, he said.
Part of Alexander’s argument seems to contradict something he said to The Tennessee Star Report recently about the president not having the authority to declare the emergency. He now seems to be arguing what Michael Patrick Leahy argued, that Trump has the authority.
According to the Examiner:
Alexander said Trump should use the authority (emphasis added) he has to use as much as $4 billion in Defense Department funding however he wants. Trump already identified $2.5 billion to use for the wall as part of his unilateral decision to build the wall on his own, and Alexander said Trump should use most of that authority instead of declaring an emergency.
But on the Feb. 6 episode of the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy talked to Alexander and discussed President Trump’s SOTU address. The transcript and an audio link are available here.
Following is an excerpt of the conversation pertaining to the president’s authority to declare a national emergency and already having Congressionally authorized funding:
Leahy: Senator Alexander, good morning this is Michael Patrick Leahy. I have a question for you about February fifteenth. Let’s say we get to February fifteenth and Nancy Pelosi doesn’t compromise and there is no deal to fund five point seven billion dollars for a border wall of the actual two hundred miles you talked about. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but on January tenth, the Congressional Research Service published a report that said the President has the authority to build much of that wall without declaring a national emergency under title ten of the US code, sections two eight zero three and section two eighty four. If, Senator Alexander, the President says, starts building the wall citing that authority, will you support him?
Alexander responded confidently by stating that it would set a bad precedent not to approve the President’s request for building the wall but at the same time a poor precedent to use a national emergency without Congressional approval. He went on to compare how if one President could build a wall, another President could come and tear it down. Alexander agreed with the section Leahy cited avoided declaring a national emergency yet questioned where the money would come from. Gill joined the conversation by asking Alexander how did Barack Obama ship one point seven billion in cash over on a palette to Iran without congressional approval.
The segment concluded by Alexander stating that the money comes out military construction or army corps of engineers and puts at risk four hundred and fifty projects of appropriated dollars for men and women that may have had seven deployments in the Middle East. He agreed that the President may have the power to use the money, but aggressively begged the question of where would they be getting the money and where would you be taking funds from to get the money. Gill clarified the debate with the question, “What are you going to cut to do it?”
– – –
Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.