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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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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 CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party Susan Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination MORE (R-Maine), characterizing Trump's decision as "of dubious constitutionality."

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill White House not ready to name Tanden replacement The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington on high alert as QAnon theory marks March 4 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 PaulHouse approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Bipartisan group of senators introduces bill to rein in Biden's war powers House sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill 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 MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward 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 McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC 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 CornynSenate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Bottom line 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 JohnsonSenate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Senate GOP will force clerks to read bill to delay COVID-19 relief vote 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 RubioDeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be 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 ShelbyCBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief Black Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers 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 BluntFive takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing Biden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Pentagon prevented immediate response to mob, says Guard chief 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 PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade A Biden stumble on China? 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 HollenBiden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Lobbying world Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill 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) TesterMellman: How the Senate decided impeachment Senate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill 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.”