Hoyer: Trump lacks authority to declare border emergency

The second-ranking House Democrat said Tuesday that President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE lacks the power to declare a border emergency — and free up billions of dollars for his promised wall — without the input of Congress.

“The president appears to believe that he can do individually that which previous presidents, and the Constitution, require be done by the policymakers of the Congress of the United States,” Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on DC statehood, gender pay gap Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (D-Md.), the House majority leader, said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

“I don’t think the president has that authority.”


Aside from the question of authority, Hoyer also made clear that Democrats don’t view the border situation as the “crisis” Republicans say it is.

"There is an ongoing — and has been for decades — a challenge to keep our border secure. … That is an effort that I support and I think the Democrats support,” he said.

“But there is no crisis, there is no invasion, there is no clear and present danger as the president would try to convey to the American people — to scare them and to justify actions otherwise not justified.”

The comments came amid an entrenched partisan standoff over funding for new construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border — an impasse that’s shuttered roughly a quarter of the federal government since Dec. 22.

Trump, whose promise to build the wall was a central tenet of his 2016 campaign message, has said he won’t reopen the government unless the spending package includes $5.7 billion for new wall construction — a non-starter in the eyes of Democrats.

To press his case, Trump has framed the situation at the border as “a humanitarian and national security crisis.” On Tuesday night, he’s scheduled to give a rare prime-time address — his first from the Oval Office — to take his argument directly to the public. Leading up to the speech, there’s been plenty of speculation on Capitol Hill that Trump will declare a border emergency in order to obtain his desired wall funding and end the shutdown, which is increasingly becoming a political headache for vulnerable Republicans.

Hoyer emphasized that no one knows what new policies, if any, Trump will announce Tuesday night. But he warned that declaring an emergency to forge policy unilaterally would drag the country down to the level of the world’s most abusive dictators.

“It is analogous to governments that we have seen all over the world declaring martial law, and justifying them in doing whatever they wanted to do to whomever they wanted to do it, whenever they wanted to do it,” Hoyer said.

“We don’t think that’s the American way; we don’t think that’s the constitutional way.”

Hoyer said there have been no discussions among top Democratic leaders about the party’s response — including the possibility of a lawsuit — if Trump were to declare a border emergency to fund the wall. But he also didn’t rule anything out.

“We haven’t discussed a lawsuit at this point in time,” Hoyer said.