MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A new front in President Trump's battle with Congress is emerging. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced this afternoon on the Senate floor that the president will sign into law the border deal reached by Congress this week. But that's not all.
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MITCH MCCONNELL: He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time. And I've indicated to him that I'm going to support the national emergency declaration.
KELLY: That declaration could allow the president to build even more border wall without consent from Congress. Democrats won't let it happen without a fight. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now.
Hey there, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: All right, so the national emergency declaration - what exactly is it? How does the president plan to use it?
DAVIS: The White House has been signaling for weeks that this is something that they would consider doing. So the news of it isn't necessarily a surprise. In fact, a lot of his supporters on Capitol Hill were encouraging him to do it no matter what. Presidents in general have pretty broad authority to declare national emergencies to marshal federal resources when needed. It happened - it has happened a lot. But the key here is generally when they do it, there is no dispute that the nation is in a state of emergency. Think President Bush after Hurricane Katrina. Doing this in a way that essentially is a play to redirect taxpayer dollars to build a border wall - it's a pretty provocative political act, and it might be an unconstitutional one.
KELLY: To the politics of this, I said Democrats are not going to let this happen without a fight. What can they do to try to block it?
DAVIS: They have a legislative option. Under the law that gives the president this authority, it also gives Congress the same legal authority to overturn a national emergency. Practically speaking, they'd need a veto-proof majority, and they're probably not going to get that with Republicans in control of the Senate. They also have legal options. They can challenge him in the court. You know, Congress has the constitutional authority, the power of the purse to declare how money is spent. If the - and they equally have been preparing for this. Democrats knew they could do it. In the State of the Union response - or one of them - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that he would be one of the attorney generals (ph) who will file suit if the president did this. We should be looking for that next.
KELLY: To inject some history here - for eight years under President Obama, Republicans were complaining about executive overreach. They accused the president of trying to make an end run around Congress. They accused him of violating the Constitution. How are Republicans like Mitch McConnell, who's the one who announced this - how are they OK with this?
DAVIS: McConnell announcing his support is fascinating in part because we know from our own reporting that he has privately been very concerned about the president doing this. It may not also have unified support among Republicans up here. There is significant concern that setting a precedent where a president can invoke a national emergency when he loses a policy fight with Congress - it's a pretty dangerous precedent to set if it's not your guy in the White House or a woman in the White House, I should say. Speaker Pelosi spoke to that today.
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NANCY PELOSI: Republicans should have some dismay about the door that they are opening, the threshold they are crossing.
DAVIS: This is the kind of presidential decision that could have the potential for any number of new precedents and unintended consequences if he's ultimately successful.
KELLY: And Sue, not to lose sight of what we thought was going to be the big news tonight - the border security deal and whether the president would sign it - he waged the longest shutdown fight in history because he wanted this $5.7 billion to build a wall. In the end, he says he's going to sign this deal. What does it get him of what he wanted?
DAVIS: The bill will include nearly - or about 1.4 billion for border wall funding that will fund 55 miles of new barriers. It's quite possible he may use the emergency declaration to try to make up for what he didn't get. We're looking for details on that from the White House.
KELLY: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, thank you very much.
DAVIS: You're welcome.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In a previous version of this report, we incorrectly said that President Barack Obama declared a national emergency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was President George W. Bush who declared that emergency.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.