As shut­down drags, Trump waf­fles on emer­gency call

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wag­ner, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day threw cold water on the idea of im­me­di­ately declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to build a wall on the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der, rev­ers­ing days of sig­nals that he might soon de­clare the emer­gency amid a pro­tracted stand­off with Democrats over a par­tial shut­down of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“What we’re not look­ing to do right now is na­tional emer­gency,” he said Fri­day af­ter­noon, sur­rounded by law en­force­ment of­fi­cials at a White House round­table. “I’m not go­ing to do it so fast.”

The pres­i­dent has said for days he might de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to ex­pe­dite con­struc­tion of the wall — and his ad­min­is­tra­tion has asked agen­cies to be­gin prepa­ra­tions.

But he has got­ten sharp push­back, even from Repub­li­cans, at the no­tion of declar­ing such an emer­gency. His lawyers have pri­vately warned that he could be on shaky foot­ing with such a move, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

The House broke for the week­end Fri­day, en­sur­ing that the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down would be­come the long­est in U.S. his­tory.

The Demo­cratic-led House held its fi­nal votes of the week Fri­day, in­clud­ing on a mea­sure to en­sure that fur­loughed fed­eral work­ers re­ceive back pay when the gov­ern­ment re­opens.

The bill, which was ap­proved 411-7 and passed the Se­nate on Thurs­day, now goes to Trump for his sig­na­ture. All those who op­posed it were Repub­li­cans.

The House also passed an­other bill that would re­open more shut­tered gov-

ern­ment de­part­ments — but it was al­ready de­clared dead on ar­rival in the GOP­con­trolled Se­nate be­cause of a veto threat from Trump.

The bill passed 240-179, with 10 Repub­li­cans join­ing all Democrats in the cham­ber sup­port­ing it.

About 800,000 work­ers missed a pay­check Fri­day as the im­passe be­tween Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day.

On Fri­day, there were no signs of se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions, and lead­ers of both cham­bers an­nounced no plans to meet be­fore Mon­day.

With polls show­ing Trump get­ting most of the blame for the shut­down, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cel­er­ated plan­ning to try to get around Congress and fund the wall from ex­ist­ing sources of fed­eral rev­enue.

The White House ex­plored di­vert­ing money for wall con­struc­tion from a range of other ac­counts. One idea con­sid­ered was di­vert­ing some of the $13.9 bil­lion al­lo­cated to the Army Corps of Engi­neers af­ter last year’s deadly hur­ri­canes and floods.

That op­tion trig­gered an up­roar in Puerto Rico, which is still re­build­ing, and ap­peared to lose steam Fri­day.

Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded tap­ping as­set for­fei­ture funds, in­clud­ing money seized by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice from drug king­pins, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional Repub­li­can not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

The White House also was eye­ing mil­i­tary con­struc­tion funds, an­other po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult choice be­cause the money would be di­verted from a back­log of hun­dreds of projects at bases around the U.S.

De­spite Trump’s go-slow mes­sage, mo­men­tum grew in some cor­ners for some sort of emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion. Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, who met with the pres­i­dent on Fri­day, took to Twit­ter af­ter­ward to urge: “Mr. Pres­i­dent, De­clare a na­tional emer­gency NOW. Build a wall NOW.”

But the no­tion of declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to by­pass Congress has di­vided Repub­li­cans, some of whom see it as an en­croach­ment on con­gres­sional au­thor­ity.

“I think the pres­i­dent should not do it,” Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, told re­porters Fri­day. “I think as a mem­ber of Congress I ought to be very self­ish about the con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers that we have to ap­pro­pri­ate money. I think it might be a bad prece­dent.”

Trump has told ad­vis­ers he be­lieves the fight for the wall — even if it never yields the re­quested fund­ing — is a po­lit­i­cal win for him.

But some of his out­side ad­vis­ers have urged him to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency, be­liev­ing it would have two ben­e­fits: First, it would al­low him to claim that he was the one to act to re­open the gov­ern­ment.

Sec­ond, in­evitable le­gal chal­lenges would send the mat­ter to court, al­low­ing Trump to con­tinue the fight for the wall — and ex­cite his sup­port­ers — while not clos­ing the gov­ern­ment or re­quir­ing him to start con­struc­tion.

Many Democrats say they have lit­tle rea­son to give into Trump’s de­mand for bor­der wall fund­ing since win­ning the House in the midterm elec­tions.

As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

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