This week: Congress, Trump set for showdown on emergency declaration
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE is on a collision course with Congress over his decision to declare a national emergency to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Trump’s decision sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill, paving the way for a political and legal battle.

The House will ratchet up the fight this week when it’s expected to vote on and pass a resolution to block the declaration.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi, Dems plot strategy after end of Mueller probe Coons after Russia probe: House Dems need to use power in 'focused and responsible way' Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters during a conference call that the measure will head to the House Rules Committee on Monday evening and come to the floor on Tuesday.

"The president's act is lawless and does violence to our Constitution and therefore to our democracy," she said. "We do not have a monarchy; we have a separation of powers in our country."

ADVERTISEMENT

The disapproval resolution was introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) on Friday and has received more than 225 signatures — including one Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashProperty is a fundamental right that is now being threatened GOP lawmaker tells party to 'do better' after O'Rourke St. Patrick's Day post The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (Mich.).

While just one House Republican is currently co-sponsoring the resolution, Castro and Pelosi have both sent "Dear Colleague" letters to members of both parties calling on them to support the measure.

“All Members take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution. The President’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated,” Pelosi wrote in her letter circulated to lawmakers.

The resolution would abolish the emergency declaration, which aims to shift money from other programs, largely from within the Pentagon.

Trump proclaimed the national emergency on Feb. 15, one day after Congress passed a massive spending bill that provided just $1.375 billion to build the barrier along the southern border — a far lower figure than the $5.7 billion requested by the administration. Trump wants to pool together roughly $8 billion, including the money included in the spending bill, to put toward the border wall.

The move was met with strong pushback from Democrats, who argued it is an executive overreach as Congress controls the power of the purse. A handful of GOP lawmakers have expressed concern it sets a bad precedent moving forward.  

“The problem is the president came to Congress asking for something, Congress said no. Our system doesn't then allow the president to say, 'Ok I'm just going do it anyway through some sort of cheat code,' " Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Graham to push for US to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel Koch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority MORE (R-Wis.) told Milwaukee's NBC affiliate on Thursday.

But many Republicans, despite widespread concerns about the precedent of the move, have aligned themselves with the president, who predicted to reporters on Friday he thinks Republicans will "stick with" him on the border wall.

The measure is expected to easily pass the House. It is unclear when it will be brought up for a vote in the upper chamber. To pass the Senate Democrats would need to flip at least four Republicans if they can also keep the entire caucus united.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) sad Senate Democrats would “soon” introduce a resolution blocking Trump’s declaration.

Several Republicans have raised concerns about Trump’s decision because of the precedent it could give a future Democratic president and worries that it ignores appropriations decisions made by Congress.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report Graham expects 'thorough' briefing on Mueller report MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump’s, predicted that a "handful” of Republicans would vote for the resolution, but that Trump would ultimately have the support to sustain a veto in Congress.

So far, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (R-Maine), who is up for reelection in 2020, is the only Republican to say she will vote for a resolution to block Trump’s emergency declaration.

“I believe it will pass the House, and, I don't know what the vote situation will be in the Senate, nor do I know exactly what that resolution will say but it is a privileged matter. That means that it will come before the Senate for a vote, and if it's a clean disapproval resolution, I will support it,” she said.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R-Alaska) said that she is “likely” to support the resolution.

"I want to make sure that the resolution of disapproval is exactly what I think it is, because if it is as I understand it to be, I will likely be supporting the resolution to disapprove of the action," Murkowski said.

She added to KTUU, an Alaska-based TV station, that “if it's what I have seen right now, I will support the resolution to disapprove."

Should it pass both chambers, it’s almost certain Trump will veto the measure. It would be the first veto of Trump’s tenure and comes as the Senate is also expected to soon take up a resolution aimed at ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which Trump has also previously threatened to veto if it reaches his desk.

“Will I veto it? 100 percent. 100 percent. And I don't think it survives a veto,” Trump told reporters on Friday about the resolution to block his emergency declaration. “We have too many smart people that want border security, so I can't imagine if it survives a veto, but i will veto it.”

Cohen

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen is scheduled to appear before three congressional committees over the course of three days this week.

On Tuesday he is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of their Russia investigation in a closed-door meeting and before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On Wednesday, Cohen will appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he’s expected to be grilled on topics including the president’s potential conflicts of interest, his business practices and potential campaign finance violations.

His appearance on Capitol Hill comes as lawmakers and the White House await the release of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s report on the Russia investigation. Speculation grew that Mueller could be ready to hand over his findings to Attorney General William Barr within days, but a Justice Department official told The Hill that he will not deliver his report to the department this week.

Background checks

The lower chamber is scheduled to bring two bills to the floor aimed at strengthening background checks on those looking to purchase firearms.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act — led by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.) — would expand federal background checks for online and gun show purchases.

Under the legislation, a licensed firearms dealer would have to conduct a background check on those looking to transfer gun ownership with the exception of transfers between family members or temporary transfers for the purpose of hunting or going to a shooting range.

The second bill — spearheaded by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — would lengthen the review period for gun purchases from 72 hours to 10 days.

Upon taking back the House, top Democrats said tightening background checks is a top priority in the wake of the number of mass shootings that have taken place in recent years.

Wheeler

The Senate is set to turn to Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency later this week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' MORE (R-Ky.) teed up Andrew Wheeler’s nomination as part of a slate expected to take up the Senate’s work week.

Wheeler has come under intense criticism from Democrats because of his ties to the coal industry, where he was previously a lobbyist.

“Andrew Wheeler is a fossil fuel lobbyist nominated to run the agency regulating the fossil fuel industry. It would be comical if it weren’t so serious,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Sanders announces first staff hires in Iowa, New Hampshire McConnell works to freeze support for Dem campaign finance effort MORE (D-R.I.) said in a statement after Wheeler cleared committee.

He added that if confirmed Trump’s nominee would “take every opportunity to chip away at — or chop down — vital protections for our environment and public health using phony science supplied by his polluter patrons.”

Wheeler was named as acting EPA administrator in July, roughly three months after he was confirmed to the agency’s No. 2 position. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change MORE (D-W.Va.) is the only Democrat still serving in the Senate who voted for Wheeler last year.

Nominations

In addition to Wheeler, McConnell has set up votes on nominees for the IRS, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the 9th Circuit.

Eric Miller’s nomination be an appeals judge is reigniting the Senate’s fight over "blue slips," a sheet of paper that indicates if a home-state senator approves of a nominee.

Spokespeople for Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of Democratic leadership, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), confirmed to The Hill on Friday that they did not return a blue slip on Miller’s nomination.

Murray first announced late last year that she wouldn’t return her blue slip for Miller, arguing that Republicans were trying to place “extreme conservatives" on the court.

"This needs to end. So I am not going to be complicit in this latest rushed process to load the courts with Trump nominees in the lame duck session and I will not be returning the blue slip that signals my approval of this process," Murray said in a statement at the time.

Though Republicans have approved previous nominees for Trump without one home-state senator returning a blue slip, Miller would be the first circuit nominee to be confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator.

Abortion

The Senate is set to take an initial vote on legislation from Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseTrump approves Nebraska disaster declaration Nebraska lawmakers urge Trump to approve disaster funding Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump MORE (R-Neb.) after comments from Democrats about “late-term abortion” legislation in Virginia sparked a political firestorm.

Sasse’s bill would penalize doctors who fail to "exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion."

He tried to pass the bill on the Senate floor earlier this month, but was blocked by Democrats. The floor drama came after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) provoked outrage among anti-abortion groups, GOP lawmakers and the White House over his comments about a bill that would have made it easier for women to get third trimester abortions if their health was threatened by pregnancy.

Sasse’s bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster during a Monday night vote scheduled for 5:30 p.m.