Ex-Rep. Kolbe signs letter urging Republicans to fight Trump’s emergency declaration

By: - February 25, 2019 3:29 pm

Former U.S. Rep Jim Kolbe. April Brady | Project on Middle East Democracy

WASHINGTON – A former Arizona Republican congressman is urging current GOP representatives to fight President Trump’s emergency declaration to fund construction of the border wall he campaigned heavily on in 2016.

Jim Kolbe, a Republican who represented the Tucson area for 22 years in the U.S. House, was among 25 former Republican lawmakers who signed an open letter asking current GOP representatives to “put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president.”

The letter, posted by the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight, comes as House leadership plans to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, which he intends to use to circumvent Congress to secure billions of dollars to fund a wall along the southern U.S. border. In 2015 and 2016, Trump promised repeatedly on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for the structure.

The letter warns current lawmakers that the president is taking the power of the purse out of their hands: “If you allow a president to ignore Congress, it will be not your authority but that of your constituents that is deprived of the protections of true representative government.”  

It also cautions that Trump’s move would set a troubling precedent.

“To you, we ask this question: what will you do when a president of another party uses the precedent you are establishing to impose policies to which you are unalterably opposed?” the authors wrote.

Former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), who also signed the letter, said he hopes it will sway members of Congress.

“The current members are pretty dogmatic, pretty set in their ways,” he told the Arizona Mirror. “I’m from the old school when we came and were persuaded by arguments based on facts. But there are still some very thoughtful members and I hope that they’ll read it and pay attention.”

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash is the only GOP co-sponsor of the resolution. He wrote on Twitter Saturday, “The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.”

Other House Republicans may vote in favor of the resolution during the floor vote. But even if support is scant among House Republicans, the resolution is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber. It would then be sent to the GOP-led Senate, where the outcome is less clear. Several Republican senators have suggested they’d vote to oppose the president’s move.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be required under the National Emergencies Act to hold a vote on the House resolution within 18 days of its passage.

Trump has said he’d veto the resolution. Overriding that veto would require the votes of two-thirds of both chambers – a steep climb, particularly in the Senate.

The president’s critics are trying to stop him in court, too. Sixteen states have filed a lawsuit against the emergency declaration.

This isn’t the first time Kolbe has publicly criticized Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he was among many prominent national Republicans who signed a letter saying they’d be unable to support a ticket led by Trump.

Kolbe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.