Trump issues first veto after US Congress blocks national emergency


By Gretel Johnston and Shabtai Gold, - US President Donald Trump on Friday issued his first veto, rejecting what he called a "reckless" move by Congress to block his declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border.

"Today I am vetoing this resolution," Trump said at the White House. "Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it and I'm very proud to veto it."


The president declared a national emergency last month in order to tap billions of dollars for a border wall along the frontier with Mexico that he promised during his election campaign. On Thursday, the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to block the emergency declaration.
The president, flanked by law enforcement officials from south-western US states, parents of people who have died from drug overdoses or violence carried out by illegal immigrants and members of his cabinet, called the resolution dangerous.
"As president, the protection of the nation is my highest duty. Yesterday Congress passed a dangerous resolution that if signed into law would put countless Americans in danger, very grave danger," he said. "Rarely have we had such a national emergency."
Trump said Democrats are in denial about the situation, which involves "crimes of all kinds" coming through the border, citing drug and human trafficking and an influx of tens of thousands of people monthly, adding that the border patrol has no where left to hold them.
Trump has worked hard to build a case that the situation is a national emergency. He has argued that he has the authority to declare such an emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, and his attorney general, William Barr agreed.
The declaration is "clearly authorized under the law and consistent with past precedent," Barr said, speaking at the signing ceremony. The southern border situation is exactly the type of emergency that would warrant such a declaration, he said.
To override the veto Congress would need a two-thirds majority in both houses. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set March 26 as the date of the House vote.
Pelosi and other Democrats have called the emergency declaration a "lawless power grab" and accused Trump of defying the constitution, Congress and the will of the American people.
"House Republicans will have to choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution," she said in a statement.
Republicans who voted against the national emergency by supporting the resolution mostly cited objections to the use of emergency powers. Specifically, they voiced concern that Congress' authority to spend - it's so-called power of the purse - would be eroded, weakening checks and balances.
But many more House Republicans would have to defy Trump and vote with the Democrats in order to achieve the necessary super-majority to override the veto, and the challenge is even greater in the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority. That means Trump's veto is likely to stand. It is however expected to be challenged in the courts.
Trump said contracts for hundreds of miles of wall soon would be signed, describing it as "a beautiful-looking structure" that is going to have "a tremendous impact."
Congress has repeatedly refused to fund Trump's wall, whose opponents call it a costly enterprise with little value. They have advocated for more technology and personnel at regular border crossings, insisting that the illicit narcotics trade in fact runs through those checkpoints.


Friday, March 15th 2019
By Gretel Johnston and Shabtai Gold, dpa

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