McConnell declines to say how he would vote on blocking emergency declaration

McConnell declines to say how he would vote on blocking emergency declaration
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.) sidestepped a question on Tuesday about how he would vote on a potential attempt to block President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE if Trump declares a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We don't know what route the president's going to take, so I'm not going to speculate on it at this point," McConnell said. "I'm going to withhold judgement about that until we see what he does."

Congress has until Feb. 15 to secure a deal on funding for the wall and to prevent a second partial shutdown, which would impact roughly a quarter of the government. The president agreed to reopen the government late last month, ending the 35-day partial shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.

Trump has refused to rule out declaring a national emergency if Congress isn't able to strike an agreement despite pushback from top Senate Republicans, including McConnell.

If Trump declares a national emergency, congressional Democrats would be able to quickly force a vote, which would need only a simple majority, to try to block him.

The Washington Post reported last week that McConnell privately warned Trump that a resolution of disapproval could get the votes to pass the Senate. Democrats hold 47 seats, meaning they would need to remain united and flip four GOP senators. Several senators have declined to say how they would vote.

McConnell, asked about his discussions with Trump, said he had talked to the administration about the procedure on Capitol Hill that would follow a national emergency declaration, which he predicted would be "contentious."

"What I said is pretty much what we talked about here — what is the procedure," McConnell said.

The talks among the conference committee to prevent a second shutdown have been publicly slow going. Lawmakers are expected on Wednesday to be briefed behind closed doors by border officials on what they believe is needed along the southern border.

McConnell indicated on Tuesday that the conference committee should focus first on getting a deal and secondly on getting approval from Trump.

"Obviously it would be great if the president decided to sign the bill. I think we don't yet know what his view is on this," he said. "But I think the conferees ought to reach an agreement."