Finance

Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration

Business and conservative groups typically aligned with the GOP came out strongly against President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency over the border, underscoring opposition to the move from traditional Republican circles.

The opponents included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks and the Heritage Foundation, all of which warned that the decision could set a precedent for a liberal president to take actions opposed by businesses and conservatives.

"The declaration of national emergency in this instance will create a dangerous precedent that erodes the very system of government that has served us so well for over 200 years," said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Trump declared the emergency after Congress refused to give him the $5.7 billion in funding he sought to build 234 miles of wall on the Mexican border. By declaring an emergency and using other executive actions, Trump plans to circumvent Congress and win as much as $8 billion in funds for the border, some of which would come from the Department of Defense.

Even before Trump announced his action, Republicans had warned such a tool could be used by a Democratic president to take action on health care or climate change.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Republicans should be worried that a future president would use Trump's decision as precedent for declaring an emergency on gun control.

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

Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) went further. 

"Our next President should declare a #NationalEmergency on day 1 to address the existential threat to all life on the planet posed by Climate Change," she tweeted.

Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, warned the decision put too much power in the executive branch as opposed to Congress, which is supposed to have greater influence over spending.

"No matter whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the Oval Office, the concentration of power in the executive branch is alarming," he said.

Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James said the move carried a "significant downside."

"This creates a dangerous precedent for future administrations and exposes the critical need for border security to the whims of activist federal judges," he said.

The Club for Growth, which has frequently supported conservative measures from the president and encouraged members of Congress to back them, remained silent on the issue.

The clash is the latest example of how Trump is challenging and changing the Republican Party, slaying some sacred cows of GOP orthodoxy while adhering tightly to others. 

Trump's imposition of steep tariffs as part of a multi-pronged trade war has drawn rebukes from farmers, importers, manufacturers and retailers, as well as exporters hit with countermeasures from American trade partners. 

In the world of foreign policy, Trump's isolationist leanings have drawn rebuke from security hawks and former generals.

The shift has repeatedly put congressional Republicans in a bind, forcing them to choose between the president and their party's traditional policies.

Republicans from a variety of backgrounds have voiced opposition to the emergency declaration. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a libertarian, said the move could be unconstitutional. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who is up for reelection in 2020, called it a "mistake." 

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said it was "attempting to circumvent the constitution" over a nonemergency. 

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) painted a picture of how future Democratic presidents might use the same authority. He said that if he were elected to the Oval Office, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could use an emergency declaration to shut down power plants as part of a Green New Deal.

"While I agree with President Trump's policy goal, I don't believe in situational principles, and it's clear what kind of rabbit hole our country can go down when we have a Democratic president who wants more government intrusion into our economy and our lives," he said. 

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