‘This wasn’t about the wall:’ On ‘Meet the Press,’ U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey defends vote against Trump’s emergency declaration

By: - March 17, 2019 1:10 pm

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday (screen capture)

One of the 12 United States senators to break with the White House and vote against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration at the southern border defended that vote in a nationally televised interview Sunday, saying “it was about the separation of powers … This is one area where we should simply reclaim the legislative responsibility that we have.”

In an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said that while he supports the Trump White House’s request for full funding for its border wall, and while the administration has the right to build one, its use of a 1970s vintage law to go around Congress for the funding was wrong.

“I’m pretty sure every Republican that voted in favor of disapproving of the emergency declaration, including me, we support the wall funding,” Toomey told Todd. “And if we did have the votes to override the president’s veto, the president would still be able to build a wall. What’s important to me is the source he uses to fund that. It should be a source — it should be a combination of sources that Congress has approved of, not those that have a very legally dubious basis. So for me, it was about the separation of powers. And I think that’s an important issue.”

Trump vetoed the resolution, first approved by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, last week, calling it his “duty.” Trump was also sharply critical with GOP senators who broke with the White House on the resolution.

Attorneys General across the nation have banded together in federal lawsuits challenging Trump’s declaration. Asked Sunday whether he hopes the Supreme Court ultimately takes up the declaration, Toomey told Todd that he was “not sure that it is straight up an illegal act.”

“I might have a somewhat outlier and certainly nuanced view on this, Chuck. I’m I think it’s a strained argument, but there is a plausible argument for the legality of what the president did,” Toomey said. “There’s a plausible argument for the Constitutionality. What we voted on on Thursday was not a question of whether the president has broken the law. What we voted on was whether we approve of what he did. And I approve of border wall construction. I don’t approve of the way the president is funding it. So when that question was before me, I voted to disapprove of the declaration. I’m not — The courts might very well end up siding with him.”

Todd also asked Toomey about Trump’s comments about Friday’s deadly shooting at mosques in New Zealand. Trump offered his condolences to victims, but also referred to undocumented immigrants entering the United States as “invaders,” during his veto ceremony. The language, multiple news organization pointed out, was similar to that used by the accused shooter.

Asked by Todd whether he believed such language “dehumanized to the point where it can get misused,” Toomey noted that he has “often disagreed with things the president has said and the things that he has tweeted.”

“But I think it’s a long way to attributing any kind of real link between what the president might say or tweet and the extraordinary type of madness that leads someone to massacre people in large numbers, whether it’s in Pittsburgh at a synagogue or whether it’s in New Zealand, Toomey continued.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.