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 TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees 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. 
 
 
"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 LankfordWhat the government shutdown means for our nation’s cybersecurity GOP senators challenge Trump on shutdown strategy GOP senator: No border security plan without a wall 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 ShelbyCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Bipartisan group of senators will urge Trump to reopen government for 3 weeks Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight 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 GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction 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.