Lindsey Graham Warns Republicans To Back Trump On Emergency Declaration

Lindsey Graham is telling his fellow Republicans that they better back the President if he decides to declare a national emergency to get funding for his border wall.

Lindsey Graham is warning his fellow Republicans that they better back the President on the border wall and the potentially imminent declaration of a “national emergency”: 

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, warned his fellow Republicans to back the president if he declares an emergency to build a wall on the southern border.

“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 in Greenville, South Carolina, of the political fight with Democrats over a border barrier. “This is the defining moment of his presidency. It’s not just about a wall, it’s about him being treated different than every other president.”

Graham said he doesn’t expect Congress to come up with a deal that would provide money for a wall in spending negotiations to avert another government shutdown after Feb. 15. He said he fears a “war within the Republican Party over the wall.”

“This is about more than a barrier. This is about us as a party,” he said.

Trump has mused for weeks about invoking emergency authority to build the wall, potentially by shifting Defense Department or disaster aid spending. But he’s also gotten increasing pushback from other members of his party.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he and other GOP leaders have conveyed their misgivings to Trump “many times.” Among their concerns are setting a precedent for a Democratic president in the future to declare an emergency on other issues.

“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.”

Graham said he understands some of his Republican colleagues have concerns about what precedent it would set, but that’s “no excuse not to have this president’s back now, because we’re not doing anything exotic here.”

Graham expects the president will order the military to build the wall using money in national security accounts. He said the last three presidents sent troops to the border and Graham suggested that building a wall isn’t much different.

Graham’s warning comes as President Trump has speculated more and more openly about the idea of using the power granted by the National Emergencies Act to declare a “national emergency” at the southern border and then, pursuant to that authority, use funds allocated for the Department of Defense as well as military personnel such as, one assumes, the Army Corps of Engineers, to build the wall and contract with federal contractors who would assist in the project. Republicans in Congress, and especially in the Senate have openly expressed skepticism at this idea and suggested that they may back a plan to try to prevent the President from utilizing such powers. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly warned the President against the idea, warning that it could trigger a rebellion among already restive Senate Republicans, who could end up joining the Democrats in utilizing the Congressional review provisions of the Emergencies Act to attempt to block the President’s emergency declaration. Of course, even if such a resolution passes both chambers of Congress, the President could veto it and it would be then up to Republicans in both the House and Senate to determine whether or not they want to attempt to override the veto.

Given his past statements about the President, one might wonder exactly what has happened to Lindsey Graham.

During the race for the Republican nomination in 2016, Graham was among the harshest critics of the President, and it seemed like he was on course to become a harsh critic of the Presidents in the Senate notwithstanding the fact that he’s a Republican. After Trump attacked the late Senator John McCain, who was a close friend of Graham’s in the Senate, Graham called Trump “a jackass,” a move that led Trump to give out Graham’s cell phone number on live television during a campaign rally. Later in the campaign, Graham said that Trump’s stance on immigration and his support for a border wall were “building a wall” between the Republican Party and Latino voters that would harm Republicans in the long run. In early December 2015, Graham attacked Trump’s position on the war against ISIS, saying that Trump’s course of action, if followed through, would ’empower the enemy.’  In response to then-candidate Trump’s proposed ban on travel from Muslim countries, Graham said of Trump; ”He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for… He’s the ISIL man of the year.”  Even at the end of December 2015, when Graham finally dropped out of the race for President, he made his disdain for his fellow candidate clear when he said:

“I never went down the demagoguery trail,” he said Monday morning, in a shot at Trump. “I didn’t get into this campaign to run other people down, and to bring out the worst in who we are as a party or a country. I think what makes America great is our tolerance for each other and the fact that we respect people who are different. That’s so different than our enemies.”

Since Trump has become President, though, and most especially in the months since John McCain passed away, Graham has fallen in line behind the Trump Administration and, with the exception of his opposition to the President’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, has become one of the President’s most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill. This has been especially true during the ongoing showdown over government spending, immigration, and the border wall. Some have speculated that Graham is angling for an appointment to Trump’s Cabinet, potentially as Secretary of Defense. While that’s one possible explanation,  Another, less likely, theory that some have openly speculated about is the idea that Graham is being blackmailed somehow regarding personal information. One of the more prevalent theories has been regarding Graham’s sexuality, with some openly suggesting that the fact that he’s a lifelong bachelor is evidence that he’s gay. There have also been rumors about this that have circulated in Washington in the past. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Others have suggested that the same Russian-backed sources that tried to help the Trump campaign in 2016 have some information about Graham that he would prefer to remain private. Again, there’s no evidence to support this claim.

Instead of these explanations, I would argue that there’s a far simpler explanation for Graham’s recent pro-Trump conversion.

The most likely explanation is that this is part of a pattern that Graham has followed in the past regarding protecting his political position at home in South Carolina, especially among the state’s Republican base which tends to be very conservative and has often viewed Graham with suspicion. In this regard its worth noting that President Trump won South Carolina in 2016 by more than 300,000 votes and 14 percentage points and that the Palmetto State is one of a handful of states where his job approval is actually positive. Graham, I would argue, is responding to this by moving to the right in an effort to block a serious challenge from the right in the primary, which is realistically the only way that he could lose his seat in 2020. He did the same thing during the run-up to the 2014 campaign and, as a result, was able to dissuade a strong Tea Party-backed candidate from rising up against him. This time, surviving in a Republican primary means supporting the President enthusiastically, so that’s exactly what Graham is going. It’s cynical and purely political, of course, but it’s also quite easy to understand.

As for Graham’s warning to his fellow Republicans, it’s unclear if it will have any impact on the attitude of rebellious Republicans on Capitol Hill. The five-week shutdown was a severe political loss for the President and Republicans generally and they are unlikely not exactly willing to replay that game, and polling is also showing that the idea of declaring a national emergency is also highly unpopular among most Americans. What Graham’s “warning” does show us, though, is that the President’s supporters are quite concerned that he could be losing support on Capitol Hill, and the more that erodes the harder it will be for him to maintain his seemingly unwavering position on the border wall.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    “This is about more than a barrier. This is about us as a party,” he said.

    I think this is a fair and accurate statement. The wall is a wedge issue that breaks the wrong way for Republicans, and has the potential to set the factions within it at war with each other.

    If Republicans have to vote on the wall, and vote down Trump’s invocation of emergency powers (and they will likely have to), it’s going to be very bad for the Republican Party regardless of which way that vote goes.

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    Instead of these explanations, I would argue that there’s a far simpler explanation for Graham’s recent pro-Trump conversion.

    This I think is true. It’s just political pragmatism from Senator Jar-Jar. I think he’s also right that this fight will define the GOP as a party — either they are in lock step with Trump on everything or there is some vestige of conservatism left.

    At this point, I think the easiest path is for Trump to declare an emergency. The courts will block it, Trump will rage at the judges, the government will re-open and he’ll ultimately have surrendered with appearing to have surrendered — the appearance part being what he cares about most.

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Hal_10000: That would be the easiest path, except House Democrats have a way to force a vote over it.

  4. Kathy says:

    @Hal_10000:

    When Lenin died, or was dying, there was a succession struggle in the USSR. The major contenders were Stalin and Trotsky, both of whom had supporters. When Stalin proved victorious, such of Trotsky’s supporters who escaped execution or imprisonment, very naturally knuckled under to Stalin.

    The situation is somewhat different now, but Graham is essentially doing the same thing: submitting to the alpha monkey leading the troop.

    Remember, too, that politics tends to exists mostly int he present, and past achievements or favors mean little. Trotsky founded the Red Army and commanded it on the field during the civil war against the White Army and foreign troops. This did not keep him from being murdered in Mexico by Stalin’s agent.

  5. James Pearce says:

    As for Graham’s warning to his fellow Republicans, it’s unclear if it will have any impact on the attitude of rebellious Republicans on Capitol Hill.

    I’d say it’s pretty clear what they’re going to do. They’re going to fall in line or they’re going to say goodbye to their political careers.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) Graham is a natural sidekick, a toady. He used to toady John McCain, now he toadies Tump.

    2) His political future depends entirely on South Carolina, which still holds the record as the stupidest, nastiest bunch of racist m’fers in American history, the original traitor state.

    3) Trump is absolutely creepy enough to start tweeting about Graham’s absence of evidence of heterosexuality.

    In short Graham’s a scared, cowardly little man who instinctively obeys alpha males. In a crowd of bullies Graham’s the guy going, “Yeah!” every time the main bully issues a threat. The thing is he was never what we thought he might be. What strength and integrity was in Graham belonged to McCain and is buried with same.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    South Carolina, which still holds the record as the stupidest, nastiest bunch of racist m’fers in American history, the original traitor state.

    Alabama may not have been the first to secede, but they are a serious contender for the rest. They are the birthplace of the civil rights movement for a reason.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Butters is such a craven pissant.

    OT…but I’m seeing a fuq-load of comments on Twitter about people being p’oed about their tax returns.
    Like the Red Hat that was expecting his typical $4K refund, and ended up owing $60 bucks.
    Anyone here done theirs? How’d you make out?

  9. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    1) Graham is a natural sidekick, a toady. He used to toady John McCain, now he toadies Tump.

    Isn’t that like moving from an aging Batman to a senile Joker?

    I mean, I see no upside at all.

    And the Joker likes to abuse his sidekicks.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I read a history of Sherman’s campaign through Atlanta. After he reached the sea he turned left and headed for Richmond. Lee decamped for the interior a little before Sherman arrived. The author described Sherman’s troops as reasonably well behaved in GA, NC, and into VA, but as cutting loose completely through SC, which had fired on Fort Sumter.

    My new home town in FL has an intersection of Sumter Blvd and Appomattox Dr. I drive through it regularly and get a chuckle every time. What were they thinking?

  11. Jen says:

    They’re going to fall in line or they’re going to say goodbye to their political careers.

    It’s silly to make this a blanket statement. Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Susan Collins would be stupid to “fall in line” with this, because they are both already on thin ice with their constituencies.

  12. Scott says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Yep, my effective tax rate went from 12.9 to 14.4%.

    Sources: Primary source was the loss of use of dependent college age children. No longer exemptions; not qualified for child tax credit. The increased standard deduction didn’t cover that.

    I’ve already written to Sen Cruz and Cornyn to let my feelings known.

  13. Barry says:

    Doug, like every GOP Senator, he toed the line and served Trump.
    Their talk is just like “I’m not the puppet! You’re the puppet!”

  14. restless says:

    @Scott:
    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Living here in California, we were badly hit by the SALT limits. Lost over $20K in sheltered income, so even the lower tax rate means we’re paying about $4k more in federal taxes.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Of course you realize people from South Carolina would fight you for suggesting Alabama’s the shittier state.

    @Kathy:
    Yep. Or in Star Wars metaphor, he’s gone over to the orange side.

    @gVOR08:
    That squares with what I’ve read as well. I spent some time researching the Civil War with an eye to writing about it, but other stuff intruded.

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  16. Monala says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Yup, people are getting hosed by two things:

    – The Republicans wanted people to feel the bump in their income from lowered tax rates by reducing withholdings, so most people got a small increase in their wages during 2018, so they’re not getting it now as lower taxes or bigger refunds.

    -But what’s worse, the new withholdings took into consideration lower tax rates only, not the fact that overall, many people have lost a lot of their deductions. Some deductions that have gone away include personal exemptions ($4k+ per person in your household), and the ability to itemize (due to the increased standard deduction, and caps on items such as SALT, or elimination of other items such as unreimbursed employee expenses).

    So for many people their deductions are smaller, and thus their taxable income is higher, and so is their tax. And since most people paid fewer taxes during the year, their refunds are smaller still or they now owe.

    But hey, credit where it is due: those who might come out ahead are parents of kids 16 and under, thanks to Marco Rubio pushing to double the child tax credit.

  17. Barry says:

    @Jen: “It’s silly to make this a blanket statement. Sen. Cory Gardner and Sen. Susan Collins would be stupid to “fall in line” with this, because they are both already on thin ice with their constituencies.”

    That already toe Trump’s line. They just furrow their brows before doing so.

  18. Monala says:

    @Monala: Or TL:DR:

    Many ordinary people are getting hosed on their tax returns, because:

    1. They had lower withholdings in 2018 due to lower tax rates, so they aren’t getting any tax benefits when they file, and

    2. Even though the standard deduction increased, many other deductions were capped or eliminated, so many people have lower net deductions, and thus higher taxable income. That’s on top of having paid less in tax in 2018 because of the reduced withholdings.

  19. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Scott:

    Same here !

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: I don’t know if this is an apt analogy, but even a number of those who took Stalin’s side in his battle with Trotsky later wound up admitting their “errors” during the Moscow Trials. Voting with Trump to preserve GOP unity could wind up being a no-win position in the long run. Graham is petrified of being primaried by someone like Trey Gowdy.

  21. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Thank you for your shotgun indictment of all us South Carolinians. That’s a real winning strategy for those of us who swim against the political tides here.

  22. dennis says:

    . . . it’s about him being treated different than every other president.

    He’s kidding, right?

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:
    I’m not forcing you to live in South Carolina. And you being a good guy living in SC doesn’t alter the reality of SC. It certainly doesn’t alter South Carolina’s heinous historical record. You may be Lot, but that’s still a Gomorrah of racism, gun-worship and primitive religiosity.

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  24. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    that’s still a Gomorrah of racism, gun-worship and primitive religiosity.

    Says the rich white guy from California.

  25. dmichael says:

    @gVOR08: Sorry to seem like a pedant, but your summary is misleading at best. Sherman’s army during this time had three campaigns: The Atlanta, the March to the Sea and the Carolinas. Each had separate and distinct strategic goals. Capture Atlanta and destroy its ability to be the center of transportation of men and materials for the South; Extract food and equipment and then destroy the ability of a large swath of Georgia to support the Confederacy and take over Savannah and its nearby harbor; and exact revenge and crush the willingness of ordinary Carolinians to support the South. South Carolina was a particularly inviting target but much (e.g. the burning of Columbia) was wrongly attributed to Sherman and his troops. While Sherman might have eventually envisioned joining the Army of the Potomac, he steadfastly refused Grant’s requests to alter his strategic goals and go directly to Richmond. By the way, the firing on Fort Sumter is considered by some to be the beginning of the Civil War and the surrender by Lee’s forces at the Appomattox Courthouse is considered (by some) to be the end.

  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    That would be the ‘rich white guy from California’ who grew up in the Jim Crow-era Florida panhandle, was taught about the ‘war of northern aggression’ in schools in Newport News, Virginia, lived in Johnson City, Tennessee as an adult, and spent IIRC, four years in North Carolina. Also, let’s see: New Orleans. Sarasota and Orlando Florida. Richmond, Virginia. Houston and Austin.

    That’s all the southern exposure I can recall off the top of my head. You?

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Oh, unless you want to count the Eastern Shore and Annapolis in Maryland.

  28. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds: There is absolutely nothing in your bio that impresses me, dude.

    I just think it’s funny that a rich white dude from California is going to call some other place “a Gomorrah of racism, gun-worship and primitive religiosity.” Don’t you have to racially segregate your overpopulated prisons out there?

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  29. Kathy says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    It will be apt when Trump’s supporters change their minds, or find other means of survival, or let go of the sinking USS Cheeto, and denounce him.

    I don’t expect denunciations. It’s bad for party unity. I do expect everything else.

  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Well, my base of direct, personal experience is nothing compared to your ability to psychically read the thoughts of light rail commuters.

  31. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You don’t have any “base of direct, personal experience” with commuting on the train, dude.

    But it has never crimped your absolute certainty that right-wing racism or right-wing sexism are the biggest afflictions of their lives.

  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    In future why not save us both some time and just type, ‘non sequitur’ in your response.

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Wow. You used a big Latin phrase like “non sequitur” and didn’t compare yourself to a chess prodigy or something. Is everything okay?

  34. An Interested Party says:

    I just think it’s funny that a rich white dude from California is going to call some other place “a Gomorrah of racism, gun-worship and primitive religiosity.” Don’t you have to racially segregate your overpopulated prisons out there?

    Ahh, but that’s the point…of course racism, gun-worship, and primitive religiosity can be found everywhere, but, for obvious reasons, those three stains especially tarnish the South…I don’t recall any other region of the country committing treason in support of slavery, do you?

    Meanwhile, I guess it is worth it to Lindsey Graham to embarrass and humiliate himself simply to remain the senior senator from the state of South Carolina…how pathetic…