Toomey on Voting Against Emergency Declaration: ‘This Was Never About the Wall’

By Melanie Arter | March 18, 2019 | 11:25am EDT
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) (Screenshot)

( – Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is one of 12 Republicans who voted against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, but he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that it wasn’t because he was against funding the wall.

“You’re right that this was never about the wall,” Toomey told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I'm pretty sure every Republican that voted in favor of disapproving of the emergency declaration, including me, we support the wall funding, and if we did have the votes to override the president's veto, the president would still be able to build a wall.


“What's important to me is the source he uses to fund that. It should be a source -- it should be a combination of sources that Congress has approved of, not those that have a very legally dubious basis. So for me, it was about the separation of powers, and I think that's an important issue,” he said.

Todd said he felt the Republicans who voted against in favor of the resolution condemning the emergency declaration were trying to send a message to Trump about the Constitution - “Article I versus Article II.”



“He clearly did not hear that version of the message. The president almost was gleeful in vetoing it. Does that disappoint you, that he didn't hear your constitutional argument?” Todd asked.

“I think the president came to a different conclusion about the Constitution and the law, as did about three quarters of my Republican colleagues to be -- you know, to be candid about it,” the senator said.

“Do you hope the Supreme Court takes this up? And which part, and how do you want them to look at this? Do you want them to look at the appropriations aspect of it or the legislative disapproval of the emergency?” Todd asked.

Toomey said he didn’t think Trump’s emergency declaration was “an illegal act.” He said what Congress voted on was not whether they approved of what Trump did, but the way he went about it.

“I might have a somewhat outlier and certainly nuanced view on this, Chuck. I'm not sure that it is straight up an illegal act. I think it's a strained argument, but there is a plausible argument for the legality of what the president did. There's a plausible argument for the constitutionality,” the senator said.

“What we voted on, on Thursday was not a question of whether the president has broken the law. What we voted on was whether we approve of what he did, and I approve of border wall construction. I don't approve of the way the president is funding it. So when that question was before me, I voted to disapprove of the declaration. I’m not -- The courts might very well end up siding with him,” Toomey said.

“So you don't know for sure if this is unconstitutional? I mean, this is the first time the emergency act was used to essentially -- to overturn a rejection of a funding proposal to refund -- I mean, that is something that had never been done before in the emergency act,” Todd said.

“I totally agree, and that was fundamentally why it was inappropriate, I think, and that's why I voted as I did, but as you know, courts are generally reluctant to overrule a president's judgment about what constitutes an emergency. And Congress did delegate authority to the president under this emergency -- the Emergencies Declaration Act. So I don't know how the courts end up deciding on this,” Toomey said.

When asked if it’s time to redo the National Emergency Act, Toomey said, “Absolutely.”

He said for decades Congress has transferred ‘way too much congressional authority from the legislative branch to the executive.”

The senator noted that the National Emergency Act initially “included a congressional only veto power,” but that was struck down.

“What we could do is reclaim that responsibility by requiring Congress to provide its ascent before a presidential declaration can go forward, and I fully support that,” Toomey said. He wondered if the Democrats would join the GOP “in making sure that this can never happen again.”

“Let me ask this because a lot of your Republican colleagues said a lot of rhetoric about Barack Obama and executive power, and then, of course, you could make an argument President Trump has pushed the limits even further. I mean, when are we going to end this sort of, ‘Oh yeah, you guys, oh yeah, you guys?’ We are in a bad place here,” Todd said.

“We are in a bad place. I don't agree that President Trump pushed it further. I think President Obama did, between the recess appointments, unappropriated funding for parts of Obamacare, the DACA and DAPA, which he himself admitted he had no legal authority to do, and I was very critical of that, and that's part of why I think Republicans should stand up,” Toomey said.

“And if the president gets into a gray area or uses legislation in a way that Congress didn't intend, I think we should stand up. I'm hoping that those of us who are consistent about that might persuade others to adopt a consistent approach, and I'm hoping that we restore some of this authority to Congress where it belongs,” he said.


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