Republican senators skeptical of using national emergency for wall funding

Republican senators are keeping their distance from talk of declaring a national emergency to get funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE has floated the possibility. 
 
Several GOP senators on Tuesday appeared skeptical about taking the controversial step, though they stressed they didn't know what Trump was planning. The senators added that they would prefer to resolve the border stalemate through legislation. 
 
Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Congressional Women's Softball team releases roster MORE (R-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee, said she supports building the wall but said the president should "tread lightly" when it comes to using an emergency declaration. 
 
"Whether that rises the the level of a national emergency. ...My understanding is that was used right after 9/11, I think, I think the president needs to tread lightly here and make sure that's warranted," she said. "That's a pretty big and bold statement to use the statute in that way."
 
She added that the "best scenario" would be for Trump and congressional lawmakers to get a deal "without declaring a national emergency." 
 
 
"Obviously it's been suggested and talked about, batted around, but I would prefer that we, again, get this resolved in the old fashion way which is two sides sit down at the table and work out a negotiated agreement," Thune told reporters. 
 
 
“There is a hard way and there is an easy way to do things, and I think that would definitely be a hard way," he said. 

Speculation about whether Trump will declare a national emergency to get wall funding reached a fever pitch on Tuesday as the president prepares to give a primetime address to discuss the partial government shutdown, which is currently in its 18th day. 
 
Trump has said he could declare a national emergency to get the funding, telling reporters late last week that he "may do it."
 
“We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. We can do it. I haven’t done it, I may do it. I may do it, but we can call a national emergency and build it quickly, it’s another way of doing it,” he said at a press conference

Trump previewed his remarks to a group of broadcast and cable-news anchors over a lunch of Caesar salad and chicken in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, but aides said he did not reveal any plans to take the controversial step of declaring a national emergency.

Lawmakers have questioned the legality of such a move. Republicans acknowledged Tuesday that while it would kick the issue, for now, to the courts instead of Congress, it would set the stage for a protracted legal challenge. 

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump Congress reaches deal on disaster aid Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Okla.) said declaring an emergency "slows down the process" of building the border wall because of other agencies that would need to get involved. 
 
"It'll [also] be tied up in the courts in the process. So it's better to be able to resolve it legislatively. That's nice and clean and simple," he said.
 
But Republicans were in the dark on Tuesday about if Trump would ultimately declare a national emergency or what he his endgame is for the current stalemate, which has closed roughly a quarter of the federal government. 

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Conservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asked if he would support Trump declaring a national emergency demurred saying he wanted to wait to see Trump's speech. 

"I think the president's got some power under the Constitution. I don't know if he's got this power or not," Shelby said. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Climate change is a GOP issue, too New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump's, said he had "no idea" what the president is planning. 

"I think that's the last resort," he said, asked if he thought an emergency declaration was a "good idea." "I think that only happens if we get stuck up here. That's not the preferred route."

Rebecca Kheel contributed.