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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 TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he 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 CollinsModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE (R-Maine), characterizing Trump's decision as "of dubious constitutionality."

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Trump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances 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 PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Fauci on Tucker Carlson vaccine comments: 'Typical crazy conspiracy theory' 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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here 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 McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study 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 CornynIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates 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 JohnsonPelosi: Dropping 9/11-style Jan. 6 commission an 'option' amid opposition Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski launches Senate bid Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies 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 RubioHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations 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 ShelbySenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Senate GOP opens door to earmarks Five takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal 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 BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP 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 PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda 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 HollenLawmakers struggle with Capitol security after latest attack Democrats torn on Biden's bipartisan pledge Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure 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) TesterLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job 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.”