Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., encouraged his Republican colleagues to stand behind President Donald Trump and his demand for heightened border security as Congress approaches its deadline for border wall funding.
“To every Republican, if you don’t stand behind this president, we’re not going to stand behind you, when it comes to the wall,” Graham said in a speech, according to Bloomberg. “This is the defining moment of this presidency. It’s not just about a wall, it’s about him being treated different than every other president.”
Congress has until Feb. 15 to reach a deal on funding for Trump’s border wall. If it fails to allocate the money necessary for the wall’s construction, Trump has said another government shutdown is a “possibility.”
He also has hinted that he might use executive power to declare a national emergency or otherwise procure funds from the Defense Department to build the wall.
Graham said it’s unlikely Congress will be able to reach a deal before the approaching deadline, and said he fears there will be a “war within the Republican Party over the wall.”
Republicans on the 17-person congressional committee assigned to negotiate the deal are already divided—some have said avoiding another shutdown is their main priority, but others have said they’ll remain committed to Trump.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of the Republicans on the committee, said he and other GOP leaders have conveyed their doubts to Trump “many times.” Cornyn said he’s particularly concerned with the precedent Trump would set if he declared a national emergency.
Doing so could open the door to future leaders—possibly those from the extreme Left—dispatching the military for their own devices without going through the legislative branch.
“The whole idea that a president—whether it’s President Trump or President Warren or President Sanders—can declare and emergency and then somehow usurp the separation of powers and get into the business of appropriating money for specific projects without Congress getting involved is a serious constitutional question,” Cornyn said Monday. “Which is why I think he would be sued immediately.”
However, some have said the question is moot as U.S. Code already authorizes the use of the military to construct border barriers in order to combat the drug trade and organized crime.
Graham said he understands his colleagues’ concern over the political standoff but reiterated that there’s “no excuse not to have this president’s back now, because we’re not doing anything exotic here.”
He said capitulating to Congressional Democrats on an issue as fundamental as border protection would also set a frightening precedent on future negotiations.
“This is about more than a barrier,” Graham said. “This is about us as a party.”