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

House Democrats are vowing an aggressive response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders 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 PelosiNJ governor calls for assessment of coronavirus response after crisis abates Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus 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 WaldenOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns MORE, the House GOP’s former top campaigns chief and the only Republican in the Oregon delegation.

Centrist Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedInfrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Overnight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran 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 AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday 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 TillisNorth Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus 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 SandersHuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Schumer: Administration 'must move heaven and earth' to implement new unemployment benefits Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search MORE, Tillis said, would declare a national emergency to implement the “radical Green New Deal,” while a President Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerMaryland Legislative Black Caucus pushes for state to release racial breakdown of coronavirus impact Democrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act 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 OmarTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Undocumented aliens should stay away as COVID-19 rages in the US The Southern Poverty Law Center and yesterday's wars 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 BlumenauerSenators urge Congress to include election funds in coronavirus stimulus Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives House committee advances medical marijuana bills for veterans 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 McConnellDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar 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 CastroTexas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order ICE under pressure to release detainees threatened by coronavirus Latinos projected to bear economic brunt of coronavirus MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response 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 CohenMemphis congressman asks Tennessee, neighboring states to issue shelter-in-place orders Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union 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 HoyerProcedural politics: What just happened with the coronavirus bill? DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill Lysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House 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 GrishamStates urge citizens to stay at home, businesses to suspend in-person operations Governors plead with Trump for more coronavirus supplies, testing Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate 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.”