Toomey displeased with Trump's border emergency, breaks with Smucker, Perry

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., left, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walk to the chamber for two votes that could end the government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Both measures failed, as the partial government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Some Republicans representing York County in Congress support President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to secure more border funding — Sen. Pat Toomey isn't one of them.

Trump on Friday, Feb. 15, announced he'd sign a national emergency declaration to bring in additional border wall funding to supplement the $1.37 billion included in a spending bill Congress approved the day before.

Later that day the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen filed a lawsuit, urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to “bar Trump and the U.S. Department of Defense from using the declaration and funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall,” The Associated Press reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union stated it intends to sue, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several Democratic state attorneys general have said they might go to court.

The emergency — which would be the 32nd active emergency in the U.S. — would divert $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction projects on top of the president tapping $2.5 billion from counter-narcotics programs and $600 million from the Treasury Department's asset forfeiture fund.

Toomey, R-Pa., said although the border funding supplied in the spending bill wasn't "optimal," a declaration isn't the way to acquire additional funding.

“I made no secret of the fact that I hoped the president would choose to avoid unilateral action and work with Congress on a legislative solution to secure the border," he said. "My staff and I are reviewing the president’s declaration and its implications very closely."

More:Trump declares national emergency to build border wall

More:York County, congressmen look toward another possible shutdown in two weeks

More:Smucker attends Trump meeting, introduces bill to prevent future government shutdowns

Toomey's displeasure diverges sharply from many of his fellow Republicans, including both House members who represent parts of York County. 

Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said he analyzed the declaration for its legitimacy, urging other members of Congress to do the same to make sure such measures are within the president's "constitutional and statutory authority."

Republican incumbent candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker greet each other during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence who rallied at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

"President Trump has made a strong case that there’s a humanitarian crisis at our southern border — and I agree," Smucker said. "It’s Congress’ duty to ensure the president is acting within his constitutional authority to address that crisis. After research and consideration, I believe Trump is acting within his authority to take this action."

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, previously said he supported the president's right to make the declaration but didn't like the idea of a national emergency, instead suggesting more short-term budget negotiations that might end in a better deal for the president.

But he also said the president has to do what's needed to achieve the funding, which Friday he reiterated was a declaration to circumvent Congress' political gridlock.

“President Trump has every right to invoke a national emergency to secure our borders — a right afforded him by the National Emergency Act of 1976, which several presidents, of both parties, have invoked as well," Perry said. "He’s left no other choice, since both chambers and parties of Congress, once again, failed to act to secure our borders."

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., was quick to condemn what he said was an abuse of power.

"President Trump’s national emergency declaration is a complete abuse of power," Casey said. "No President can be allowed to spend taxpayer dollars without authorization from Congress."

U.S. Senator Bob Casey discusses a New York Times article regarding the U.S./Mexican border during a meeting with the York Dispatch staff Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

As for the spending bill, which provides more than $300 billion for several government departments and agencies, Toomey was on the same page as his House counterparts.

The bill signing Friday put an end to the possibility of another government shutdown after the country's longest in history — 35 days — ended in late January. Roughly 800,000 federal workers went without pay during the shutdown.

The county's three Republican delegates voted against the measure, citing a lack of time to review the 1,200-page bill, a lack of sufficient border funding and spending increases. Casey voted for the short-term spending package. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called for a hearing on the “serious constitutional and statutory issues” Trump's emergency declaration raises, according to The Associated Press.

Congressional votes in coming weeks on a resolution blocking the emergency declaration were highly likely, but the timing was uncertain, the news agency reports. Once a resolution is introduced, leaders by law cannot prevent votes on such a measure, which would need a simple majority to pass each chamber.

A resolution would all but certainly pass the Democratic-controlled House and may also pass the Republican-run Senate, if a few GOP senators break with Trump. Congress seemed unlikely to muster the two-thirds majorities needed in each chamber to override a certain Trump veto. But forcing him to cast his first veto on the issue would underscore internal divisions GOP leaders would rather avoid highlighting.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.