McConnell on President’s Emergency Declaration: I Will Vote To Uphold It

‘The president is operating within existing law and the crisis on our border is all too real. I will vote to support the president’s decision later today and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding today’s vote on the president’s southern border emergency declaration:

“Later today, the Senate will vote on a resolution related to the state of emergency the president has declared on our southern border. Let me first say that I support the president’s decision. So I will vote today to uphold it and reject this resolution of disapproval. But I want to begin where this whole discussion should begin. Beyond all the partisan rhetoric and denials of reality that we see from our friends across the aisle.

“Just the facts of the matter. And the facts are not ambiguous: There is a clear border security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States of America. It was only last week that the president’s top officials in the matter -- Secretary Nielsen and CBP Commissioner McAleenan -- each came before Congress to once again spell this out. The man charged with protecting our nation’s borders didn’t mince words ahead of last week’s hearing. Quote: ‘The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point.

“The Commissioner pointed out to our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee that the 76,000 attempted illegal crossings documented in February marked an 11-year high for that month. And based on CBP projections, by the middle of this month -- that is, tomorrow -- apprehensions for FY 2019 will already be twice what they were in all of FY 2017. And in front of the House Homeland Security Committee, the Secretary of Homeland Security elaborated, saying, quote: ‘Our capacity is already severely strained, but these increases will overwhelm the system completely.’

“This is one of the president’s senior advisors -- a cabinet secretary -- and she’s telling members of Congress that the current situation is very much a crisis -- one that requires immediate action. Over the past five years, CBP has recorded a 620% increase in apprehensions of family units at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year’s figure marked an all-time high. Research suggests upwards of 30% of women apprehended at the border report experiencing sexual assault during their journeys. Lately, a daily average of 56 individuals taken into CBP custody have required emergency medical care.

“The men and women of the Border Patrol are brave. They are well-trained and highly-skilled. And they volunteered for a challenging job. But today they are facing challenges they are not fully equipped to overcome. Now, it’s no secret I take the Senate as an institution extremely seriously. I take the separation of powers extremely seriously. And I take Congress’s prerogative over appropriations extremely seriously.

“But – as I argued yesterday in the context of the Yemen resolution – the Senate should not be in the business of misusing specific resolutions to express opinions on more general matters. President Trump has not invoked some vague Article II authority or simply swept aside existing law, as President Obama did to establish his DACA policy. He has simply operated within existing law – the National Emergencies Act of 1976 – to invoke a narrow set of authorities to reprogram a narrow set of funds.

“If Congress has grown uneasy with this law, as many have, then we should amend it. If the 116th Congress regrets the degree of flexibility that the 94th Congress gave the executive, the 116th Congress can do something about it. I have suggested to the Chair of the Homeland Security Committee that they examine how the law can be updated to reflect these concerns. I hope that they can report bipartisan solutions through the regular order that the full Senate can take up.  

“But let’s not lose sight of the particular question before us today: Whether the facts tell us there is truly a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border, and whether the Senate for some reason feels that this particular emergency on our own border does not rise to the level of the 31 other national emergencies which are currently in effect. In my own view, these narrow questions are not especially difficult ones to answer. The president is operating within existing law and the crisis on our border is all too real. I will vote to support the president’s decision later today and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

Related Issues: Homeland Security, Immigration, Law Enforcement