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Pelosi Remarks at Press Call on Introduction of Privileged Resolution to Terminate President Trump’s Emergency Declaration

February 23, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Joaquin Castro hosted a press call following the introduction of Congressman Castro’s privileged resolution to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration proclamation, which undermines the separation of powers and Congress’s power of the purse, a power exclusively reserved by the text of the Constitution to the Legislative branch.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Congressman Castro.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you for joining us on this very important topic today.  Not too long ago this morning I filed H.J. Res 46, the privileged resolution that will give the Congress the opportunity to vote on terminating the national emergency declaration that President Trump declared to fund his border wall.

I want to give you some context and background to this and how it came about.  About six weeks ago, when it was rumored the President might declare a national emergency for such a purpose, my staff and I began working with legislative counsel to figure out the best way to make sure Congress could take a vote on this issue, and potentially terminate the resolution.  H.J. Res 46 is the product of those six weeks of work.  What the President is attempting is an unconstitutional power grab.

He has, throughout his Presidency, sought to undermine the Judiciary and now the Legislative branches of government.  This is an historic power grab, and it will require historic unity by Members of Congress, liberal and conservative, to counteract the President’s parasitic movement.

The reason that I have a strong interest in this, as I know everyone in Congress does, is because, for one, I’m the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Hispanic Caucus Members represent every single district across the U.S.-Mexico border except district 23, Congressman Will Hurd’s district in Texas.  Congressman Hurd himself has been very clear that there’s no need for a border wall, and that a border wall is inappropriate on the U.S.-Mexico border.

I also represent the Texas Democrats, I’m the Chair of the Texas Democrats.  Texas has the longest border with Mexico, roughly 12,000 miles, larger than any state in the nation.  So, this is obviously very consequential both for Members of the Hispanic Caucus and for Texas Democrats and all Americans.

And I want to say a very special thank you to Speaker Pelosi for all of her leadership and her hard work on this, she has helped marshal support for the resolution.  Right now I believe that we’re at about 226 or 227 co-sponsors, including one Republican, Justin Amash.  I look forward to gaining more support as the days go on.

I should also mention that there are big implications for military funding.  My city, San Antonio, is known as Military City USA.  We have joint base San Antonio, a large military installation here.  Funding could potentially be cut for projects at Joint Base San Antonio, as well as other Texas installations at Fort Bliss and the Red River Army Depot.  The same could be said for states with military installations across the country if President Trump is successful in taking money from the military and military construction projects to fund his border wall.

It should also be said that there is no emergency at the border.  Border crossings are at a decades low.  We have more resources committed to the border than we have ever had in our nation’s history when you look at the federal, state and local resources that have been committed to the border.

So, I hope that Members of Congress, regardless of party, will put their country above any political party, stand together united, against what is a power grab by this president.  And with that I’ll be happy to take some questions.  But before that, of course we’ll turn it over to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much Congressman Castro for hosting this call this morning, more importantly for your leadership.

We already know that the President has gone outside the law to get what he failed to achieve in the Constitutional legislative process.  I thank you for your leadership in the state legislature and Congress for more than 15 years, from Texas.  You know the territory.

I thank you for your keeping America strong and safe on the Intelligence Committee, on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and measuring the strength of our country and the education of our young people on the Education and Labor Committee.  And for your leadership as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Your speaking for so many Members of Congress from Texas on the impact of the President’s action is very important.

I am going to speak to the President’s action in terms of the Constitution of the United States and the oath of office we take to protect and defend the American people.  That Constitution begins with the beautiful preamble to the Constitution.  As soon as the preamble ends, Article 1, the legislative branch proceeds.  The first branch of government, the legislative branch, co-equal to the other branches of government – the Executive and the Judicial.  Imbued with powers, in the text of the Constitution, one of them being the power of the purse.

The President is lawless and does violence to our Constitution, and therefore, our democracy.  His declaration strikes at the heart of our Founder’s concept of America which demands separation of powers.

The President’s declaration clearly again violates the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse.  This power is again, reserved by the text, I repeat, by the text of the Constitution.

The President’s emergency declaration fundamentally alters the balance of power, violating our Founder’s vision for America – part of that vision being that we do not have a monarch.  We have a separation of powers in our country.  They rebelled against a monarchy.  They did not intend to establish one in our country.

Our privileged resolution will restore our system of checks, will reassert our system of checks and balances in our constitutional responsibility imbued in the Congress.

This issue transcends partisan politics.  This isn’t about politics, it isn’t about partisanship – it’s about patriotism.  That’s why I wrote a letter about this resolution, Mr. Castro’s resolution, to all Members.  ‘Dear Colleague’ not ‘Dear Democratic Colleague’ – ‘Dear Colleague’ just to say this is an institutional assault.  We have a duty to protect and defend the Constitution, that constriction is the institution of the Congress of the United States, we should do everything in our power to strengthen the institution in which we serve and not weaken it.

We continue to urge Republicans in Congress to continue to uphold the Constitution to defend our system of checks and balances – I cannot say it enough.  But I do say that the President is not about the law, in any way.  And this action that he is taking, he is circumventing the Constitution of the United States and in doing so does violence to it.

Where we go from here is under the leadership of Mr. Castro and again I thank him for making us ready.  The minute it happened we were ready because of his leadership.  Mr. Castro’s resolution will go the Rules Committee on Monday evening.  On Tuesday, we will bring the rule for bringing up this resolution to the Floor it would be our plan on the same day to vote on the resolution.

With that, we would be pleased to take any questions you may have.

* * *

Q:  Hi, thank you Madam Speaker, and thank you Mr. Castro for doing the call.  Mr. Castro, you mentioned you have one Republican co-sponsor on this.  Can you just detail what is being done to get more Republicans on this resolution?  What is your message to Republican Members?  And is there an active whip operation to get more than Mr. Amash to vote for this resolution?

Congressman Castro.  Sure, that’s a great question.  Our appeal in our Dear Colleague letters has been quite bipartisan as the Speaker mentioned.  She and I have letters out to Democrats and Republicans, so this isn’t a situation where we’ve just been courting one side.

It’s been a little bit tough because we’ve been out of session since last Thursday.  So we’ve not been together all on the House Floor.  That’s usually when you see resolutions or bills, when you pick up cosponsors very quickly, it’s usually because you can speak to them about the legislation on the House Floor and make your case and such.

We don’t go back until Monday, but I certainly will be doing that then and we will also be, my staff has been making calls furiously.  I’m going to be making calls between now and then and making the case that we should join together as Americans and as Members of Congress to stop what I consider to be a parasitic action by this President to unilaterally declare an emergency in order to build a border wall and spend money on a border wall that the United States Congress, including a Congress that is led by one Republican chamber, in the Senate, did not authorize.

And, I also believe, and this will be part of my message, that if the Congress relents on this, that the President will very likely try this again.  This is a President who in every way has pushed constitutional boundaries – who has bullied folks.  And I believe, if the Congress rolls over on this, the President is likely to do it again.

Speaker Pelosi.  If I just may add to what Representative Castro said, I believe our letters to the Republicans are out of respect for their patriotism.  I know they care about the Constitution of the United States.  I know they care about the separation of powers and the co-equal nature of the branches of government.  So, it is out of respect for their respect for the Constitution that we invite them to join.

But, what’s really important is how they will vote on Tuesday when the legislation comes to the Floor.  The opportunity to cosponsor is a courtesy.  Putting the bill on the Floor is a different question and we’ll see where they come down on that.

But, we will pass a resolution in the House and send it over to the Senate.

Q: Okay, sorry, I had it muted. 

Congressman, you mentioned the military implications regarding the President’s order.  Can you tell me the more specific, how we in San Antonio would be affected should this order stand?

Congressman Castro.  Yeah, each of the times I visited Joint Base San Antonio, at Lackland for example, as part of the briefing, there is usually a discussion of military construction projects that need to be built, that need to be completed, need to be funded.   And the President’s emergency declaration, one of the pots of money would be taking from military construction projects.

Now, we don’t necessarily know which specific ones at this point, but Joint Base San Antonio, like other installations across the country, is badly in need of different construction projects.

So, it could very directly affect us in San Antonio and my staff is watching closely to see if we can get any other indication about what the President would do with regard to specific construction projects.

Speaker Pelosi.  If I just may say, Congressman Castro has been a champion for Joint Base San Antonio, always looking out for its well-being and bragging about it, I might add, around, in the Congress of the United States.  And, just last night, I saw him leave a meeting to go to a meeting for the veterans, a town hall meeting for veterans.

Congressman Castro.   Right

Speaker Pelosi.  So again, the defense of our country and San Antonio’s and Texas’ role in it is a priority for him and the Congress, which makes this resolution, coming from him, all the more relevant.

And, I will also add that Congressman Cuellar is on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.  He has a full list of possible targets for the President’s action.  One action the President has already taken proved to be unsuccessful by taking more than two billion dollars out of a particular defense line of spending and found out, they found out, that that money had already been spent.

So, clearly, they are not only doing the wrong thing, they don’t know what they are doing.

So this could be very dangerous and for many reasons.  Dangerous to the Constitution, but also to our readiness.

And I thank Mr. Castro for his patriotism.

Q: Hi, thanks so much for this call.  Two questions if I could.  One, my understanding is that the Senate could amend this resolution.  I know it has to take it up within a short time frame.  Is there a plan for a conference committee and how will the Democratic-led House handle that?

And, also, does the Democratic-led House plan to file a legal challenge to this emergency declaration?

Speaker Pelosi.  The first question is a question to be directed to the Senate.  The privileged nature of this resolution, very carefully constructed by Mr. Castro and I thank him for his care in that, makes it a resolution that goes to the Senate in an expedited manner.  I do not anticipate that there would be any amendments to it.

In terms of what else we do, well, we have five committees of jurisdiction that might have reason to file one thing or another.  They will be working in a very focused strategic way as to what we might do next in that regard.

But, I am not announcing any of that today.  Right now, today, is about this resolution.

Thank you.

Q: Thank you.  I’ve got a couple wonky questions about the money.   

One, Madam Speaker, the two billion dollars in the account that has already been spent out, is that in reference to section 284?  And, then, the other question is about section 2808, the military construction funding.   Is it your understanding that the President must notify you not just the amount of money, but exactly which projects he is targeting before he can get that money?

Speaker Pelosi.  Depending on how the President approaches it, because as you know his, shall we say, fidelity to the regular order and to the Constitution of the United States has not been something we can depend on.

But, the regular order of things would be that the President would convey his request to the Chairman of the committee.  The Chairman of the committee says yes or no.  That has never been overruled.  So, this is, depending on the approach he takes, we will see, but we are prepared for the worst because right now the President is engaged in the worst, which is to undermine the Constitution of the United States.

I’m in, while we are waiting for questions, I’m in Laredo right now and over the course of the visit I’ll be joining Congressman Cuellar and others at the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge.  We’ll visit the border there and see, again see, yet again another – we’ve had many, many congressional visits to the border.  And, many of our Members, as Congressman Castro said, represent the border.

So, we want to be as current as possible about what’s happening there and there is no evidence to support the President’s false claim of a crisis on the border.  And, any visit, people should visit and they will see the wisdom of legislation that was passed in a bipartisan, bicameral way before Congress left on it’s congressional recess work period.

Q: Thank you Madam Speaker and Representative Castro.  Has anyone spoken to the Acting Defense Secretary to determine what his views are on this and what projects are going to be sacrificed?

And secondly, Madam Speaker, if you could speak to why you think it’s important for, not just action through the courts, but for Congress itself to take this resolution.  As you know, there are a bunch of lawsuits out there and the House also has the prerogative, I would assume, to file a lawsuit.

Speaker Pelosi.  As I said when the President took this action, we will fight his action in the Congress and in the courts and in the public because, this is, again, this isn’t about anything partisan or political.  This is about upholding the oath of office that we take to protect and defend the Constitution.

I say it over and over.  I can’t say it enough.  We would be delinquent in our duties if we did not protect and defend the Constitution, even from the President of the United States.

There will be, as I said, in the Congress and in the courts.  Now in the courts, it may be congressional or it may be outside.  That remains to be seen, but there will be a challenge to the constitutionality and the legality of what the President is doing.

And, as you know –

Congressman Castro.  And also –

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh sorry, go ahead.

Congressman Castro.  I was gonna say, Jennifer, you ask a great question on the Defense Department.  I believe my staff has been in touch, but I have not.

In the week since the President has filed this emergency declaration, we’ve just been working furiously to try to get support for the resolution.  But, my staff may have and I’m gonna check in with them.

Speaker Pelosi.  It is my understanding that the Defense Department, this may be as a matter of course, when they would be redirecting funds from the Defense Department to another purpose, that the purpose must meet the standard of protecting and defending the American people – the purpose of defense.

So, there is a process that goes on.  We’ll see how the Defense Department is honoring that and you may want to look into that right now as we get off the phone –

Congressman Castro.  Right

Speaker Pelosi.  Because I think it is a connection.  I’m talking to the reporter about that.  [laughter] She’s very up on all of these things.

Congressman Castro.  Oh  [laughter] I thought you were giving me an instruction, sorry.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no, no.  I was telling the reporter that it was my understanding that this would be regular order and that perhaps – that we are hopeful that the defense  department is honoring that.

How does this diversion of the funds support the purpose of the funds, which is to provide for the defense of the American people.

Q: Thank you Madam Speaker and Mr. Castro.  Many Republicans, most recently Mr. Flores from Bryan, Texas say that the President is well within his rights to declare the national emergency and to move the money around.  It seems that the question of executive privilege needs to be answered as well, not just on this particular resolution, but looking back through history – back to President Ford, for example.  Your thoughts on that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the fact is, is that – is there an emergency?  Is there a crisis as the President describes?  The President is being frivolous and cavalier in trying to define what is happening at the border in a manner that would justify the unusual action of this kind of an order.

So, what we are saying to the President is, if there were such an emergency, if there was such a crisis, the American people would be united in our support of it.  The legislation would have reflected that.  But the legislation, bicameral – House and Senate, bipartisan – Democrats and Republicans, overwhelmingly voted for different course of action to address the situation, to provide for border security.

We all understand our responsibility to secure our borders.  Contrary to what the President says, we all understand that responsibility – House and Senate, 300 in the House of Representatives, 300 votes in the House of Representatives and an overwhelming vote in the United States Senate said that this is the path that we are going.

So, the President has a right to do such a thing when there is an emergency, a true emergency.  Yes, he does, and if there were a true emergency, he wouldn’t even have to do it.  We’d be right there with him.  This would be reserved when time would not – would prevent Congress from action.  The President would have to act in an expedited emergency manner.  That is not what is happening now.

The President is being frivolous with the Constitution and those of us who take that oath have a responsibility to protect it and also those of us who serve in the Congress have an institutional responsibility to strengthen, not weaken, the institution in which we serve so that it is a co-equal branch of government.

Congressman Castro.  I would just add to the Speaker’s comment that national emergencies have been declared mostly for national security issues, often involving the armed forces or national disasters.

This is an action that was specifically denied, an appropriation, to the President to fund the border wall that amounts to declaring a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise.  The President is declaring a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise, not because there is an actual emergency at the US-Mexico border.

Speaker Pelosi.  But the President’s, I might say, the promise was that Mexico was going to pay for it.  So, it was – the President is declaring a national emergency to honor an applause line in a rally.

This is not – not only is he disrespecting the Congress, the Legislative Branch and the Constitution of the United States, he is dishonoring the office in which he serves.

Are there any other questions?

We can proceed with our events in Texas and I, again, thank Congressman Castro for his tremendous leadership on this.  I look forward to his taking this legislation to the Floor early next week so that we can, in an expedited manner, send it to the United States Senate.

This again, I can’t – I say it over and over – this is institutional.  It is constitutional.  It is not political.  It is not partisan.  It is patriotic.

Thank you, again, Mr. Castro.

Congressman Castro.  Thank you, Speaker.  Thank you for all your help and leadership.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.