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'The wall won't get built': Republicans warn Donald Trump against state of emergency over border wall

The move signals doubts about the controversial wall within the president’s party.

US President Donald Trump shows a border wall design during a roundtable discussion on border security on Friday.
US President Donald Trump shows a border wall design during a roundtable discussion on border security on Friday.
Image: Douliery Olivier/ABACA/PA Images

TOP REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS have warned against Donald Trump declaring a national emergency to secure funds for a border wall.

The move signals doubts about the controversial wall within the president’s party, with a government shutdown over the issue set to enter a fourth workweek.

Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told CNN that he would “hate” to see Trump invoke emergency powers for a wall.

“If we do that, it’s going to go to court and the wall won’t get built,” he said. 

And Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, told ABC “We don’t want it to come down to a national emergency declaration,” even if he believes Trump has the authority to do so.

Trump only recently backed away from talk of an emergency declaration, after pressing it for days as a way out of the continuing budget standoff. 

Democrats have strongly opposed the idea. The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, told ABC that “if this president is going to turn to national emergencies every time he disagrees with Congress, I’m against it”.

He urged Trump to “put an end to the shutdown and put everything on the table”.

As the partisan battle drags on, the effects of the partial shutdown have become steadily clearer, and new polls show growing public dissatisfaction.

Republicans blamed

On Sunday, Trump acknowledged the mounting costs of the shutdown.

“The damage done to our country from a badly broken Border – drugs, crime and so much that is bad – is far greater than a shutdown, which the Dems can easily fix as soon as they come back to Washington!” he said.

Many lawmakers spent the weekend in their home states – often hearing constituents’ complaints about the shutdown – but will return to Washington on Monday.

Trump has tried various angles to pressure Democratic negotiators, but they have not visibly budged from an offer to support some border security spending – the figure of $1.3 billion (€1.1 bn) has been floated – but not the $5.7 billion (€4.9 bn) he wants for a wall.

Two new polls indicate the Democrats may be winning the battle for public support.

A Washington Post/ABC News survey found that far more Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown than blame the Democrats – by 53 percent to 29 percent.

Meanwhile, a separate poll by CNN showed Trump’s disapproval rating among Americans had climbed by five points – to 57 percent – in just a month, with just 37 percent approving.

But the Post poll also found a hardening of Republican support for a wall, with 70 percent now saying they strongly support the wall, up from 58 percent a year earlier.

Fears of overreach

The president has closely tied his fate to his steadfast conservative base.

Many Republicans doubt that the invocation of a national emergency would help their cause – likely influencing Trump’s decision on Friday to say he was holding off in order to give Democrats more time to strike a deal.

“I want to give them the chance to see if they can act responsibly,” he told Fox in an interview late on Saturday.

Trump has acknowledged that an emergency declaration would likely trigger a legal battle ending in the Supreme Court.

Opponents say such a unilateral presidential move would be constitutional overreach and set a dangerous precedent.

The partial shutdown became the longest on record at midnight Friday, when it overtook a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 under president Bill Clinton.

- © AFP 2019

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