Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Photo: Washington Bureau
Photo: Washington Bureau

Sen. Portman seeks way to pay for wall without ‘emergency’ declaration

Portman, an Ohio Republican, said he believes strongly that a wall on the southern border would work to stem illegal immigration as well as an influx of illegal drugs in to the U.S. But he’s also deeply concerned that Trump’s decision to use a national emergency declaration to pay for the wall will create an ugly precedent that future U.S. presidents could abuse.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, he said he was trying to come up with an “alternative way” to get Trump the funding he needs to build the wall without an emergency declaration — even though Congress has consistently failed to pay for the wall, even when both the House and Senate were led by Republicans.

That could include using up to $4 billion in Defense dollars designated to fight drugs or organized crime in addition to the $1.4 billion that Congress spent in their last government funding bill. Portman said using those dollars would not require a national emergency declaration “and enable the president to do what he wants to do without establishing a bad precedent and without this having to go into the courts where at least some of that money might never be used.”

Or it could include reworking the resolution passed by the House last week to clarify when the declaration could be used in an attempt to put limitations on its use.

He still refuses to say whether he would vote for or against the Democratic resolution which passed the House last week on largely party lines.

“I’m trying to get a result here,” he said. “I know some in the media are very eager to see an immediate decision, but that’s not the way I look at this.”

That’s true: Portman has a long history of attempts at deal-making with Democrats and Republicans. During the 35-day government shutdown earlier this year, for example, Portman spent hours meeting with other senators trying to find a solution to the impasse, only to see Trump decide to find a solution on his own. He’s also been involved in a “supercommittee” that sought to but was unable to find a solution to a budget crisis in 2011 and last year was involved in a committee that pushed for, but did not reach, a compromise on a multi-employer pension crisis that threatens the pensions of 66,000 Ohioans.

Portman said he’s hoping Trump will “pull back” his emergency and allow Congress to solve the problem through the legislative process.

“My position is I’m trying to come up with an alternative way to deal with this,” he said.

At least four Republicans senators have said they plan to back the Democrat–sponsored, House–passed bill to undo Trump’s emergency declaration: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine. Trump has vowed to veto any measure overriding the national emergency.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, has indicated he’ll back the House-passed resolution.

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