SpeakerNancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) on Thursday issued a warning to Republicans poised to supportPresident Trump's decision to declare a national emergency at the southern border: the next Democratic president, she said, could do the same on guns.
"A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans."
Pelosi noted that Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and faculty dead. She argued that the real national emergency is not illegal border crossings, but gun violence in the U.S.
"Let's talk about today: The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America," Pelosi said. "That's a national emergency. Why don't you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.
"But a Democratic president can do that."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) also shared a tweet calling several issues championed by Democrats, such as climate change and income inequality, a "national emergency."
Moments before Pelosi spoke, the White House had announced that Trump would sign an enormous spending deal to prevent another partial government shutdown slated to begin on Saturday.
The measure includes billions of dollars in border security measures — including $1.375 billion to construct 55 miles of new barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border — but the White House said Trump will separately declare a national emergency at the border in order to liberate additional funds from other programs to build his promised wall.
Trump had demanded $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the border during the previous 35-day shutdown over December and January, which became the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
The notion of declaring such an emergency to promote spending not approved by Congress has been panned by a number of Republican lawmakers in recent weeks. Yet Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell(R-Ky.), who's scrambling to prevent a second shutdown, said Thursday he'd support it.
What happens next is unclear. Pelosi declined to say if Democrats would launch a legal challenge against the coming national emergency, though one has been expected after Trump spent weeks floating such a declaration.
"We will review our options, and I'm not prepared to give any preference to any one of them right now," she said Thursday.
But House Majority LeaderSteny Hoyer(D-Md.) suggested Wednesday that Democrats would, indeed, challenge the move in court.
"We think the president would be on very weak legal ground to proceed on this, and I'm sure that if he chose to do that, that we would test it in the courts," Hoyer said. "And you've heard a lot of Republicans express a similar sentiment."
Pelosi emphasized that she's not promoting the idea that a president of any party should use emergency declarations to advance pet projects without Congress's consent, even if it was a Democratic president pursuing tougher gun laws — an issue she strongly supports.
"I'm not advocating for any president doing an end-run around Congress," she said. "I'm just saying that the Republicans should have some dismay about the door that they are opening, the threshold they are crossing."
Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and former aide to former House Majority LeaderEric Cantor(R-Va.), sounded a similar warning on Thursday, moments after the White House announcement.
"Make no mistake: the next Democratic President will declare national emergencies on guns and climate change and cite the Trump precedent when doing so,"Heye tweeted.
The Senate on Thursday passed the spending package by a vote of 83-16, sending it to the House. The lower chamber is scheduled to vote on the legislation Thursday night.