Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Emergency' Declaration from Trump Opens Fault Line in GOP as Blunt Warns It Could Be Bad Precedent

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Emergency' Declaration from Trump Opens Fault Line in GOP as Blunt Warns It Could Be Bad Precedent

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - The Republican case against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration for wall funding is real, and heading into the 2020 elections it has created a fault line between him and Republicans who have for years called for "strict constitutionalists" on the courts and in government.

One of the chief Republicans opposed to the declaration is Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a stickler for legislative process and adherence to powers the Constitution gives Congress over government purse-strings and checking presidential overreach.

Blunt, R-Mo., is also one of his party's top appropriators. He has for weeks publicly urged Trump to not declare a national emergency on the border with Mexico to try to get funding that Congress won't give him.

Now that the president has done that, the shape of the debate is clearer, both politically and legally. While giving Democrats chances to sharpen attacks on Trump as an autocrat, it also significantly pits Republicans against Republicans as the 2020 calendar gets closer.

Cautious by nature in the partisan wars, Blunt went on Friday as far as he has gone in opposing Trump's emergency declaration, which the president outlined in a contentious, rambling and sometimes emotional off-the-cuff speech in the Rose Garden.

Hours earlier, Blunt had told "Wake Up Columbia with Branden Rathert" on 93.9 FM that legal challenges to Trump's declaration would probably tie up wall construction for the remaining two years of Trump's current term, and that it could set bad precedent for Republicans who fear a future Democratic president could cite Trump's precedent to declare national emergencies on gun violence, climate change or other issues that split Democrats and Republicans.

Blunt also suggested that the legal fight over moving funds from the military construction budget to the border wall could also delay spending in that area. An important part of the 2019 military construction appropriations dedicates $323.6 million for continued planning and construction of a new, $1.7 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters in north St. Louis.

A White House official who asked to not be identified by name said that "the White House is working closely with (the Department of Defense) to identify funding within these programs, but there is no list of planned (military construction) projects that might be affected at this time."

"Criteria will focus on lower priority, unawarded projects -- we're committed to not harming lethality or readiness," the official said. The NGA makeover in St. Louis has long been sold as vital to U.S. counter-intelligence.

The White House has prioritized military construction projects after Treasury and counter-drug programs as sources of funding for the wall.

In his interview with the Columbia radio station, Blunt repeated claims that he believed Trump had ample authority to move money between current appropriations line items without the national emergency declaration.

"There are a lot of things the president could do here," Blunt said. "I know he believes that the situation is an emergency, and I don't have any argument with that. But you do have to let the constitutional process work.

"No president has ever tried to do anything like this and call it an emergency," Blunt went on. …

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