Graham Warns GOP to Back Trump on Wall Emergency

(Bloomberg) -- Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, warned his fellow Republicans to back the president if he declares an emergency to build a wall on the southern border.

"To every Republican, if you don’t stand behind this president, we’re not going to stand behind you, when it comes to the wall," Graham said in a speech in Greenville, South Carolina, of the political fight with Democrats over a border barrier. "This is the defining moment of his presidency. It’s not just about a wall, it’s about him being treated different than every other president."

Graham said he doesn’t expect Congress to come up with a deal that would provide money for a wall in spending negotiations to avert another government shutdown after Feb. 15. He said he fears a "war within the Republican Party over the wall."

"This is about more than a barrier. This is about us as a party," he said.

Trump has mused for weeks about invoking emergency authority to build the wall, potentially by shifting Defense Department or disaster aid spending. But he’s also gotten increasing pushback from other members of his party.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he and other GOP leaders have conveyed their misgivings to Trump “many times.” Among their concerns are setting a precedent for a Democratic president in the future to declare an emergency on other issues.

“The whole idea that a president -- whether it’s President Trump or President Warren or President Sanders -- can declare and emergency and then somehow usurp the separation of powers and get into the business of appropriating money for specific projects without Congress getting involved is a serious constitutional question,” Cornyn said Monday. “Which is why I think he would be sued immediately.”

Under a 1976 law, Trump can declare a national emergency if he specifies the reason to Congress. But any lawmaker could demand a vote on overturning the president’s decision, setting up a test of the president’s power and his pull within the GOP. If Congress disapproves, though, the president has the ability to veto such a resolution.

Cornyn said he couldn’t say how he would vote without knowing the scope of what Trump may try to do.

‘No Excuse’

Graham said he understands some of his Republican colleagues have concerns about what precedent it would set, but that’s "no excuse not to have this president’s back now, because we’re not doing anything exotic here."

Graham expects the president will order the military to build the wall using money in national security accounts. He said the last three presidents sent troops to the border and Graham suggested that building a wall isn’t much different.

Graham is up for re-election in 2020 in a state that Trump won by 14 percentage points. He denied he has changed his political views to defer to the president, who has become a golfing buddy.

"What’s happened to Lindsey Graham?" he said someone from New York asked him. "Not a damn thing."

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