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Sen. Alexander calls Trump’s border wall emergency ‘unnecessary, unwise’

Lamar Alexander (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — President Trump’s emergency declaration over the border wall prompted a rebuke Friday from Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Alexander was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers skeptical of that declaration, calling the move “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.”

“It is unnecessary because significant additional money already has been approved by Congress that he could spend on border security without declaring a national emergency. In fact, the president announced today that he would spend $3 billion of this additional funding to fund construction of the border wall. This $3 billion is in addition to the $22 billion Congress appropriated on Thursday for detention beds, technology, border patrol agents, ports of entry, replacing existing wall and 55 miles of new wall.

“It is unwise because if this president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next president can declare a national emergency to tear it down; or declare a climate change emergency to close coal plants and build wind turbines; or a health care emergency and force into Medicare the 180 million Americans with health insurance on the job.

“It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution because, after the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people.”

Alexander voted Thursday in favor of a spending bill that averted a government shutdown and included $22 billion for border security and $1.375 billion for 55 new miles of physical barrier or wall on the southern border, along with funding for security at ports of entry, which he called a “down payment on border security.” It did not, however, include the full amount Trump sought for the wall.

Tennessee’s  other U.S. Senator, Republican Marsha Balckburn, has not issued a statement on the emergency declaration.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously opposed an emergency declaration, said Thursday he would support the move after Trump agreed to sign the compromise legislation to avert another government shutdown.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, also were skeptical of the president’s declaration.

Trump conceded that he expects his national emergency declaration will be challenged in the courts, but rejected criticism from those who argued he is setting a bad precedent and insisted he is on firm legal ground.

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