Coons says Trump's emergency declaration sets "terrible precedent"

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Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said Congress should take action to "disapprove" of President Trump's national emergency declaration, telling "Face the Nation" the move represents an "excessive use of executive power" and sets a "terrible precedent." 

Congress should "make it clear that the Article I branch, the Congress, is going to jealously defend our right to be the body that decides on federal spending, and not let the president use this extreme measure as an end around our appropriations process," Coons said Sunday.

The Democratic House could pass a resolution canceling the declaration which would then be sent to the Senate, where a simple majority of senators could vote to reverse the declaration. But Mr. Trump could veto such a resolution, and a congressional override of a veto requiring two-thirds of both chambers would be unlikely.

Mr. Trump on Friday announced the emergency declaration to free up funding to build his long-promised border wall along the southern border. The executive order said "the current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency." 

In explaining his use of the national emergency declaration, Mr. Trump said in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House he "didn't need to do this" but wanted to get the border wall built "much faster," adding it was a "great thing to do." He told reporters he expects to be sued and the American Civil Liberties Union has already vowed to do just that. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also hasn't ruled out taking legal action against the administration if a resolution to reverse the declaration fails.

Coons said Congress allowing the president's declaration to stand sets a "terrible precedent of letting a president declare a national emergency simply as a way of getting around the congressional appropriations process."

"Presidents do have emergency powers. They can declare national emergencies. But if you look back at the history of that over the last four decades, they've overwhelmingly been done in the face of legitimate national security threats where there was no time or no other means of addressing them," Coons added. 

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    Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital