Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters

House Democrats are vowing an aggressive response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE's emergency declaration at the southern border, mulling ways to block his go-it-alone approach with legislation, legal action, or both.

Yet party leaders are in no immediate rush to show their hand, instead hoping to keep the focus on growing GOP divisions while pressuring more Republicans to oppose the president's unilateral power play.

Heading into the weeklong Presidents Day recess, the office of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data MORE (D-Calif.) is distributing a spreadsheet to members logging a host of wide-ranging local projects potentially threatened by Trump’s effort to shift funds from military construction coffers to the border wall.

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The list — nearly 400 projects long — features a number of ventures in GOP districts. It includes maintenance facilities for F-35 stealth fighters at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks, Alaska; the operation of a middle school at Fort Campbell, Ky.; and funds to replace a training maze at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“We have to smoke out as many Republicans as possible by making the case that projects in their backyard are in jeopardy and will likely be raided to help pay for Trump’s ineffective and politically motivated wall,” said a senior Democratic aide.

Key congressional Republicans, meanwhile, don’t need any nudge from Democrats. They’re already tearing themselves apart over Trump’s declaration.

“Congress has granted the executive branch certain spending authorities. I strongly object to any president acting outside of those explicit authorities to spend money that Congress has not appropriated for specific initiatives,” said Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE, the House GOP’s former top campaigns chief and the only Republican in the Oregon delegation.

Centrist Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time The Athletic lays off 46 staffers as pandemic hits media industry A quiet, overlooked revolution in congressional power MORE (R-N.Y.), a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, is also urging Trump to abandon his unilateral action.

“We recognize the president has the authority to declare a national emergency but believe this sets a bad precedent and lets Congress off the hook from doing its job,” Reed said. “We encourage the president to use other means to move around unused money to build off of the down payment on border security Congress is delivering with this funding bill.”

Across the Capitol, GOP criticism of Trump’s executive move was even more scathing.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump WHO withdrawal could boomerang on US Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention GOP Health Committee chair says he disagrees with Trump's WHO decision MORE (R-Tenn.), a former member of leadership and senior appropriator, lambasted Trump’s emergency declaration as “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.”

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Cunningham sets Senate fundraising record in North Carolina in challenge to Tillis Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services committees, warned that Trump was setting a horrible precedent that the next Democratic president could use to ram through “left-wing” policies.

A President Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary Military madness in the age of COVID-19 MORE, Tillis said, would declare a national emergency to implement the “radical Green New Deal,” while a President Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew Booker easily wins New Jersey Senate primary MORE would declare an emergency on gun violence and end Second Amendment rights.

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Sen. Booker (D-N.J.) is running for president, while Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) is expected by many to enter the race.

“It doesn’t matter who the President is or what party they belong to: I strongly believe in the separation of powers and curbing the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the last century, including during the Obama Administration,” Tillis said in a statement.

Those GOP concerns aren’t necessarily unfounded. On Friday, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' The Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid MORE (D-Minn.), a progressive freshman rabble-rouser, tweeted that the next president “should declare a #NationalEmergency on day 1 to address the existential threat to all life on the planet posed by Climate Change.”

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerChuck E. Cheese files for bankruptcy protection Bipartisan bill introduced to provide 0B in relief for restaurants OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dems press Trump consumer safety nominee on chemical issues | Lawmakers weigh how to help struggling energy industry | 180 Democrats ask House leadership for clean energy assistance MORE (D-Ore.) went a step further, announcing Friday that he’ll soon introduce a congressional emergency declaration on climate change. And Pelosi on Thursday warned Republicans that backing Trump’s unilateral action would haunt them, potentially liberating the next Democratic president to launch a similar gambit to restrict guns.

“I'm not advocating for any president doing an end-run around Congress,” she said. “I'm just saying that the Republicans should have some dismay about the door that they are opening.”

The bipartisan pushback arrived within hours after Trump, speaking from the White House Rose Garden, declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The president argued that waves of migrants streaming north from Central America pose a direct threat to national security, leaving him no choice but to sidestep Congress and direct $8 billion from other projects to build the wall he’d promised during his 2016 campaign.

“It’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people,” Trump said.

A day earlier, Congress had passed a sweeping federal spending bill, providing funds to roughly a quarter of the government — including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — and preventing another partial shutdown.

Trump agreed to sign the package, but only reluctantly, since Democrats had successfully blocked the $5.7 billion in border wall funds he’d requested within it. The emergency declaration, endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ky.), was the president’s way to claim victory in defeat. With it, Trump is asserting the power to fund the wall by transferring funds from other projects, under DHS and beyond, including some Congress had approved for the Defense Department.

Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? Pompeo: US 'certainly looking at' ban on Chinese social media apps like TikTok Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide MORE (D-N.Y.), quickly issued a statement vowing to fight the maneuver using “every remedy available" — without naming specifics.

Democrats, however, won’t sit idle long in launching their formal response. Reps. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Hispanic Caucus formally endorses George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Technical difficulties mar several remote House hearings MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWhat to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman says Biden is moving left Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (D-N.Y.) are already drafting a resolution to block the declaration from taking effect. That proposal could arrive as early as next week, according to a second Democratic aide.

“We've got people flooding in to support this, which is great,” the aide said.

Among the early supporters is Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenPelosi throws cold water on impeaching Barr Justice Department officials say decisions are politicized Congress must act on police reform, don't let opponents divert the conversation MORE (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subpanel on the Constitution. It’s unclear, however, if Democrats will rally around the Castro resolution or another proposal, or if they’ll move it through committees or bring it straight to the floor.

Passage by the House would create an enormous headache for McConnell. Although the Kentucky Republican said he supports Trump’s declaration, the National Emergencies Act requires that such a resolution is deemed privileged, guaranteeing a vote on the Senate floor, and highlighting GOP divisions with Trump.

Democrats are also eyeing a legal challenge to Trump’s declaration, with House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerAmy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey MORE (D-Md.) predicting this week that Democrats “would test it in the courts.”

Democrats could file such a suit themselves, or piggyback onto other legal challenges sure to come from states, landowners and other stakeholders affected by new wall construction. California, for instance, announced Friday that it will file such a suit. And others are eager to join.

“This affects everyone in Congress, affects governors,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamGovernors urge Pence to promote mask-wearing Warren top choice for VP for some Black progressives Poll finds Warren most popular Biden VP choice among college students MORE (D) said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC. “And we will join whatever legal action and related efforts to make sure that we keep the executive branch in check.”