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GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration

The months-long battle over a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall is set to escalate dramatically when President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE declares a national emergency.

Talk of an emergency declaration immediately sparked division, and in some cases outright rebuke, from the GOP senators Trump will need on his side.

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Senators on both sides of the aisle are steeling themselves for an entrenched, messy fight, with the declaration likely serving as an opening salvo in a high-profile political and legal battle.

Several Republicans panned talk of Trump moving forward with the plan, an option he has kept on the table as conservative allies fume that the deal to fund the government included only $1.375 billion for border barriers, instead of the $5.7 billion for a wall sought by the president.

“I believe it’s a mistake on the president’s part. I don’t believe that the National Emergencies Act contemplated a president repurposing billions of dollars outside of the normal appropriations process,” said Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races MORE (R-Maine), characterizing Trump's decision as "of dubious constitutionality."

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE (R-Alaska) added that she didn’t “think that this is a matter that should be declared a national emergency.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ky.), who has worked to cultivate a friendship with Trump, also characterized himself as “not in favor of operating government through emergency,” and insinuated that the move could violate the Constitution.

Trump has long floated that he might declare a national emergency to construct a U.S.-Mexico border wall if Congress wasn’t able to come up with a funding deal, despite pushback from top leaders on Capitol Hill.

The White House was reportedly exploring other ways Trump could try to circumvent Congress to get more money without declaring a national emergency.

But top GOP allies on Capitol Hill warned that would not get Trump to $5.7 billion, and signaled they believed he would ultimately carry out the controversial move.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSenate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says MORE (R-N.C.), who is close with Trump, said Wednesday that it “would be political suicide” for Trump to sign the funding bill without taking executive action to reroute funds toward the wall.

“I think there's very little political liability from conservatives,” Meadows said about Trump coupling his signature of the bill with executive action.

In a boost for the president, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor he would support Trump’s decision, a political U-turn from weeks ago when McConnell warned against an emergency declaration.

“I’m for whatever works, which means avoiding a shutdown and avoiding the president feeling he should declare a national emergency,” he said two weeks ago during a press conference with reporters.

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Many congressional Republicans said they were taking a wait-and-see approach, and that their support or opposition would depend on the specifics of Trump’s declaration.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden MORE (R-Texas), who is close to McConnell, said he wanted to see what form Trump’s action took but noted that he previously raised concerns about executive action.

“My concerns about an emergency declaration were the precedent that’s going to be established,” Cornyn said. “I also thought it would not be a practical solution because there will be a lawsuit filed immediately.”

Cornyn noted that McConnell’s floor announcement came after hours of back-and-forth talks between the GOP leader's office and the White House about whether the president would sign the funding bill and under what circumstances.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.) also shrugged off McConnell’s decision to support the emergency declaration, saying, “That’s obviously one of the things the leader believes he has to do to get the president to support” the funding bill.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Trump's new interest in water resources — why now? MORE (R-Fla.) said his stance will depended on the “structure” of the declaration, but added that he generally doesn’t “think that’s a good approach, but we’ll have to deal with it.”

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFinger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag MORE (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and was among the four legislators who finalized the funding deal, gave full-throated support to the move.

“I’m not concerned because I think the president is on the right track to secure the border, which I share. I like what he’s doing,” Shelby said, adding that presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt have expanded the power of the executive.

The decision for Trump to declare a national emergency left lawmakers in a familiar pattern: Being asked to react to something the president will do while largely in the dark themselves about the details.

And news of the president’s plans came at an already chaotic moment in the Capitol, as police officers were escorting senators through the basement to elevators that would take them to the Senate floor to vote on the funding deal.

“I’m going to wait and see exactly how he does it and what he does,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.), an appropriator. “There are ways you could transfer funds that I could be fully supportive of, and there are other ways that I have a lot of problems with.”

Democrats are likely to challenge Trump’s executive order in Congress, in addition to legal challenges in the courts. Though rare, lawmakers believe they could pass a resolution of disapproval by a simple majority; it would be subject to a veto.

“He’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities,” House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Trump announces opening of relations between Sudan and Israel Five takeaways on Iran, Russia election interference MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement Thursday.

To get a resolution blocking the action through the GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats would need to remain united and flip at least four Republicans.

They excoriated the move on Thursday, warning Republicans that supporting Trump now could haunt them down the line.

"A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well," Pelosi said Thursday. "So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans."

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers MORE (D-Md.), an appropriator, said a declaration would be “a gross abuse of power” and that it was “likely illegal.”

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterInterior says Pendley to remain at BLM despite 'dramatic tweets' from Democrats Overnight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley Democrats seek to block appeal of court ruling ousting Pendley, BLM land plans MORE (D-Mont.), a moderate from a Trump-won state, said the decision was “not smart at all.”

“I think it sets a standard for declarations of emergency that just about anything could fit into, and he isn’t going to be the president forever,” Tester said. “I think it takes power away from the legislative branch, so it’s a failure on all sorts of fronts.”