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

House Democrats are vowing an aggressive response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds 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 PelosiOn The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Battle heats up for House Foreign Affairs gavel Nearly one-third of US adults expect to lose employment income: Census Bureau 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 WaldenMcMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment MORE, the House GOP’s former top campaigns chief and the only Republican in the Oregon delegation.

Centrist Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 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 AlexanderMcConnell chokes up saying goodbye to 'friend' Lamar Alexander in floor speech Mark Kelly sworn in to Senate seat Longtime GOP lawmaker urges Senate to restore itself in farewell speech 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 TillisRep. Mark Walker announces Senate bid in North Carolina Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge 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 SandersFormer Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy DeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE, Tillis said, would declare a national emergency to implement the “radical Green New Deal,” while a President Cory BookerCory BookerBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Policy center calls for new lawmakers to make diverse hires Dangerously fast slaughter speeds are putting animals, people at greater risk during COVID-19 crisis 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 Omar'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement Meet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far 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 BlumenauerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Restaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter 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 McConnellHillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' On The Money: Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms | Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks | Poll: Most Americans support raising taxes on those making at least 0K Nearly one-third of US adults expect to lose employment income: Census Bureau 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 SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats 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 CastroBattle heats up for House Foreign Affairs gavel Overnight Defense: Mike Rogers slated to be top House Armed Services Republican | Defense bill hits another snag | Pentagon dinged for 0M loan to trucking company using COVID funds DeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHarry Styles hits back at criticism over wearing dress on Vogue cover 'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement Obama says Democrats should make sure Ocasio-Cortez has a platform 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 CohenDe Blasio mum on whether he'll block sale of Mets to controversial investor Two ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL 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 HoyerFunding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Hoyer releases 2021 House calendar Democrats eye Dec. 11 exit for House due to COVID-19 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 GrishamLujan Grisham turned down Interior post, says transition source Rhode Island governor reportedly a finalist to be Biden's Health secretary Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases 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.”