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 TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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 CapitoGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Congress braces for chaotic December 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 LankfordTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Israeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo 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 ShelbyDemocrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks On The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal 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. 

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"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 GrahamGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Hannity slams Stern for Clinton interview: 'Not the guy I grew up listening to' 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.