WASHINGTON — White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hard-liner, defended President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to redirect taxpayer funds for a southern border wall, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Sunday continued to raise concerns about the move.
Miller, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” signaled that Trump is prepared to veto any legislative efforts to block his emergency declaration. The president also is facing the prospect of legal challenges from those who argue his declaration is unconstitutional because Congress already denied him the money through the appropriations process.
“He’s going to protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed,” Miller told the show’s host Chris Wallace.
Wallace pressed Miller to provide examples of past presidents invoking a national emergency to secure taxpayer funding for a project that was previously denied by Congress. Miller did not cite any examples, but said the president was empowered by the 1976 National Emergencies Act to defend the country against all threats.
"This is a threat in our country,” Miller said of immigrants crossing the U.S. and Mexico border. “And if the president can’t defend this country, then he cannot fulfill his constitutional oath of office.”
Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to direct taxpayer funds to his key campaign pledge of building a southern border wall, after signing a bipartisan border security deal that provided $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley — less than the $5.7 billion he had been demanding from lawmakers.
The declaration allows Trump to redirect $3.6 billion that had been appropriated for military construction projects. The president has indicated he will also redirect money from a $2.5 billion military drug prevention program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund.
Sen. Tammi Duckworth (D-Ill.) told ABC’s “This Week” she believes there is enough bipartisan support in Congress to pass a joint resolution that would block Trump’s national emergency declaration, but said she was less confident the body could reach a two-thirds majority threshold to overturn a Trump veto on the resolution.
“Frankly I think there’s enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he’s doing is robbing from the military and the DoD to go build his wall," Duckworth said referring to the Department of Defense. "That it’s really not the best way to fight the crisis that he’s talking about at the border.”
Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have publicly raised reservations about Trump’s declaration.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” said the executive branch and the legislative branch were entering “uncharted territory” over their disagreement about what constitutes a national emergency.
“I don’t think we needed a national emergency declaration,” Hurd said. “That is not a tool that the president needs in order to solve this problem.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told “Face the Nation” that Congress “should not set the terrible precedent of letting a president declare a national emergency simply as a way of getting around the congressional appropriations process.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), speaking on John Catsimatidis’ radio show, said he supported Trump’s emergency declaration because the military funds Trump is tapping into “does have a relationship to a wall” and securing the border.
“Ordinarily I would say that it’s dangerous declaring national emergencies unless it’s really something of life and death and imminent, but I think in this case the fact is such that illegal immigration is increasing ... it’s becoming an emergency situation, a humanitarian situation,” King said.
Correction: Sen. Chuck Grassley represents Iowa. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect state.