Ending the suspense over whether the president would sign a congressional funding bill and head off a second government shutdown, first Mitch McConnell and then the White House signaled a plan:
Actually, while Trump has talked about issuing a national emergency declaration or some other “executive action” allowing him to move money into border-wall projects, this is the first time he has committed to this legally and politically perilous course of action. It certainly enables him to take a clear-cut defeat in Congress for his border-wall plans, pocket what little he was given, and then pledge to get the rest on his own.
But this approach will face immediate legal challenges. And it’s likely to be unpopular: One poll showed 69 percent of Americans opposing a national emergency declaration to circumvent Congress on border-wall spending. A lot of conservatives really don’t like the precedent for expanded executive power it would set. Worst of all, the declaration will almost certainly be challenged in Congress, which could put Republicans in a less than idea spot of backing Trump’s border-wall obsession to the hilt, as CNN recently noted:
In the scenario Hill Republicans fear most, Trump declares a national emergency and House Democrats quickly pass a joint resolution against it, sending what amounts to a political grenade into the Senate. There, Republicans would be forced into either supporting a national emergency or rebuking a GOP president on his signature issue.
It would also force them to grapple with a handful of other thorny issues – from executive overreach to separation of powers to raiding Pentagon money to pay for border security.
Having said all that, congressional Republicans probably preferred the slippery slope of an emergency declaration to the definite political disaster of a second government shutdown. McConnell, who was widely reported as being opposed to the emergency declaration, has now endorsed it. Most congressional Republicans are likely to follow suit, at least for now. And so the president has delayed his definitive defeat on the border wall — for now.