Presidential border emergency divides Texas lawmakers

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- For the first-time in history, Congress votes on whether to override a presidential emergency declaration. Doing so would block the president from moving billions in military funding into border barrier construction. But, experts argue the controversy will likely be settled in court – not Congress.

“I live on the border,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), “so I understand the border, I don’t go in and just spend an hour and say I know the border better than other people.”

Cuellar said he favors beefing up border security. But, he argues that doesn’t include a wall, and the President can’t bypass Congress to go beyond the deal which Congress agreed to when it re-opened the federal government. “We have to take a stand,” said Cuellar.

Tuesday, 13 republicans joined Cuellar and fellow Democrats in voting to overturn the president’s emergency declaration. Cuellar said border towns are safe and the federal government’s own statistics show illegal immigration is down 80 percent since the mid-2000s. “So there’s no emergency,” Cuellar said.

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) voted against overriding the president, arguing expanding the wall would slow the flow of undocumented immigrants and illegal drug into the country. “If we’re going to help America and Mexico, the best thing we can do is secure that border,” he said.

While Gohmert’s side lost Tuesday, he said it’s clear democrats are well short of the votes they’ll eventually need to overrule the president. If the Senate votes as the House did, the resolution would go to the President Donald Trump who has promised to veto it. The measure would then require two-thirds of lawmakers to vote in favor of it in order to take effect over the president’s objection.

Georgetown Political Science Prof. Mark Rom said Gohmert’s math checks out, leaving fence-sitters with a political calculation moving forward. “So the republicans are ultimately going to have to choose, do I preserve the power of congress or do I preserve my standing with president Trump, most of the republicans are going to want to preserve their standing with President Trump,” he said.

If Congress does not ultimately have the votes to block the president’s plan, Rom expects a federal court to step in, putting it on hold on until the Supreme Court ultimately decides if it’s constitutional. “I don’t think anyone knows for sure how the Supreme Court will rule,” he said. And that, he said, may not happen for years.

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