WASHINGTON — At least one Nebraska Republican is unhappy with President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to funnel more money to border security.
“I don’t like it,” Rep. Don Bacon told The World-Herald. “I think it takes us the wrong direction.”
To be clear, the Omaha-area congressman favors additional border security funding, and he faults congressional Democrats for not providing more of it in this week’s spending package.
But just because Congress fails to tackle an issue, Bacon said, doesn’t mean presidents get to take action on their own. He also criticized past presidents for taking similar approaches in the face of congressional inaction.
“I know we have a border problem that we want to fix and we failed to do it,” Bacon said. “But I want to protect our three equal branches of government with checks and balances as well. And I don’t like the trend that we’re seeing, as a growing power of the executive branch, Republican or Democrat.”
Bacon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also objected to Trump’s plan to shift billions from military construction to border security. He said that will have a real impact on those military projects.
“Some program, some building, some mission will be impacted somewhere,” Bacon said. “It could be a delayed impact or a permanent impact, I don’t know. But this money was allocated for a reason.”
He said it’s unclear whether the shift in money will affect a plan to completely replace the crumbling runway at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha. Air Force and Pentagon officials had no immediate answer in response to World-Herald inquiries about the effect on the runway.
Bacon said he is leaning toward supporting a disapproval measure of the emergency declaration if one is brought up.
Some other Midlands Republicans were less critical of the declaration, despite having criticized then-President Barack Obama for taking his own unilateral actions to circumvent Congress on issues ranging from immigration to guns.
“I appreciate the president’s commitment to addressing the crisis at our border and I agree that additional measures are necessary,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a statement Friday to The World-Herald. “I look forward to reviewing the executive action in greater detail.”
In years past, Fischer had offered pointed criticism of how Obama went his own way when he was blocked by Congress.
“Unfortunately, what the American people have seen from this administration is an unprecedented level of government overreach and too many efforts to work around Congress through executive orders,” Fischer said at the time about the Obama administration.
The statement from Fischer, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, did not address the potential impact on the Offutt runway.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., was another critic of Obama’s moves. After Trump’s victory, Sasse wrote that Democrats had “swallowed their whistles” as Obama stretched the limits of executive power. And he said he hoped they would learn their lesson with their party no longer in the White House.
“And I’m equally hopeful that my GOP colleagues who rightly decried President Obama’s use of unilateral executive power will be equally quick to challenge executive overreach even when it’s done by a Republican,” Sasse wrote at the time.
Sasse provided a statement to The World-Herald on Friday that did not include whether he will oppose or support Trump’s declaration but reiterated concern about executive actions.
“We absolutely have a crisis at the border, but as a constitutional conservative, I don’t want a future Democratic president unilaterally rewriting gun laws or climate policy,” Sasse said. “If we get used to presidents just declaring an emergency any time they can’t get what they want from Congress, it will be almost impossible to go back to a constitutional system of checks and balances. Over the past decades, the legislative branch has given away too much power and the executive branch has taken too much power.”
Reps. Adrian Smith, and Jeff Fortenberry, both Nebraska Republicans, have criticized Obama’s actions in the past.
Fortenberry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Smith expressed no objection to Trump’s declaration.
“President Trump is right: criminals who wish to do us harm should not be allowed unrestricted access to our country,” Smith said. “Speaker Pelosi and her party have had months to follow through on promises they’ve made for decades to stem the tide of illegal drugs and human trafficking across our southern border, but instead they succumbed to the petty politics of the moment.”
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb slammed Trump’s declaration. “Trump declares a national emergency on a wall he promised Mexico would pay for and now is leaving D.C. for his country club,” Kleeb said. “Sounds more like a campaign stunt to feed red meat to his base than responsible governing.”
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, delivered a full-throated statement of support for the declaration, saying he’d been asking Trump to follow this course for months.
“President Trump is on solid constitutional ground, and I hope he uses this authority to build all of the wall that’s needed, which means extending it until illegal aliens stop going around the end,” King said.