‘I believe the president has clear authority to transfer up to $4 billion among accounts … to counter drug activities …’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) Sen. Lamar Alexander is claiming President Donald Trump already has funding to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, and that he doesn’t have to resort to a “dangerous national emergency precedent.”
The longtime Tennessee Republican is retiring in 2020, and was one of the first GOP senators to urge Trump to back off his border wall national emergency declaration, or face a possible rebellion in the Senate.
On Monday, Alexander delivered a much anticipated floor speech about how the president could build a wall and still maintain Senate support.
“I believe the president has clear authority to transfer up to $4 billion among accounts within the over $600 billion defense budget in order to counter drug activities and block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries,” he said.
Trump previously vied for $5.7 billion but was thwarted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, amid a 35-day government shutdown ending in January.
Alexander said his concern was in maintaining a constitutional separation of powers “that goes to the heart of our freedom.”
Many pro-Trump conservatives are wary of what Democrats will do once in power if Trump sets a national emergency precedent, although President Barack Obama similarly used his “pen and phone” brand of legislation by executive fiat to record effect.
Alexander provided an off-ramp by explaining how to get close to the magic $5.7 billion number.
“The president said on Feb. 15 that he plans to use $2.5 billion of this transfer authority to build the 234 miles of border wall that he asked for in his Jan. 6 letter,” Alexander said.
“If he would increase the transfer from $2.5 billion to $3.7 billion, he will have—along with other existing funding authority—the $5.7 billion he needs,” he continued.
Alexander also referenced a recent op-ed by New York University Law School professor William E. Nelson, which he said explains why it’s so critical not to “invert the entire constitutional order where Congress appropriates and the president spends.”
With liberal states suing to block Trump’s emergency order, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely decide the dispute.
If the president loses, he’ll diminish the power of the presidency to act in future national emergencies.
But if Trump wins, then it would undercut the checks and balances provided by the framers and lead to an all-powerful presidency.