Former Republican Pa. congressman urges GOP to vote against Trump’s emergency declaration

President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania is urging current GOP representatives to fight President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the border wall.

William Clinger Jr., a Warren County native who represented the commonwealth in the U.S. House for 18 years, was among 26 former Republican lawmakers who signed an open letter asking current GOP representatives to “put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president.”

The letter, posted by the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight, comes as House leadership plans to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, which he intends to use to circumvent Congress to secure billions of dollars to fund a wall along the southern U.S. border.

The letter warns current lawmakers that the president is taking the power of the purse out of their hands. “If you allow a president to ignore Congress, it will be not your authority but that of your constituents that is deprived of the protections of true representative government.”

It also cautions that Trump’s move would set a troubling precedent. “To you, we ask this question: what will you do when a president of another party uses the precedent you are establishing to impose policies to which you are unalterably opposed?”

Former U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., who also signed the letter, said he hopes it will sway members of Congress.

“The current members are pretty dogmatic, pretty set in their ways,” he told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. “I’m from the old school when we came and were persuaded by arguments based on facts. But there are still some very thoughtful members, and I hope that they’ll read it and pay attention.”

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash is the only GOP co-sponsor of the resolution.

He wrote on Twitter Saturday, “The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.”

Other House Republicans may vote in favor of the resolution during the floor vote.

But even if support is scant among House Republicans, the resolution is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber. It would then be sent to the GOP-led Senate, where the outcome is less clear. Several Republican senators have suggested they’d vote to oppose the president’s move.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be required under the National Emergencies Act to hold a vote on the House resolution within 18 days of its passage.

Trump has said he’d veto the resolution if it makes it to his desk. Overriding that veto would require the votes of two-thirds of both chambers — a steep climb, particularly in the Senate.

Trump’s critics are trying to stop him in court, too. Sixteen states have filed a lawsuit against the emergency declaration; Pennsylvania is not one of them.

Clinger, who was chairman of the House Oversight Committee in the 1990s, has been critical of Trump in the past.

In October 2016, he joined other former Republican lawmakers vowing not to vote for Trump in that November’s presidential election.

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