Democrats have moved to prevent Donald Trump from building a wall on the Mexican border by trying to block the president’s declaration of a national emergency in Congress.
Mr Trump declared the emergency last week to enable him to raise funds for the border after Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal that provided only $1.37bn for the wall, well short of what he required to fulfil his flagship 2016 campaign pledge.
The budget deal was struck in order to avoid a second partial government shutdown this year.
On Friday, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of representatives, said the president was undermining the US constitution.
“The president clearly violates congress’ exclusive power of the purse, and this power is preserved by the text of the constitution,” Ms Pelosi said. “This isn’t about anything partisan or political. This is about upholding the oath of office to protect and uphold the constitution.”.
Joaquin Castro, a Democratic representative from Texas who prepared a House resolution to block the national emergency, accused Mr Trump of declaring it “to fulfil a campaign promise, not because there is an emergency at the US-Mexico border”.
Ms Pelosi wrote to Democrats on Thursday to promise that the chamber would “move swiftly” to pass the bill, which currently has the support of 226 lawmakers, including one Republican. A vote in the House on that measure is tentatively expected early next week.
Although the measure might pass the Democrat-controlled House, it is likely to encounter more difficulties in the Senate, which remains controlled by Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, has said he supports the president’s emergency declaration.
Mr Trump has said he would veto the legislation if it passed both the House and the Senate, meaning it would need a veto-proof two-thirds majority in both chambers.
A coalition of 16 US states, including California, New York, Maryland and Virginia, have already filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to block the president’s move. They argue the president does not have the power to divert funds, as Congress controls spending.
The 16 Democratic attorneys-general — all but one from states with Democratic governors — said Mr Trump had acted against the will of Congress and “used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration” to divert funds that were intended for military construction, seizing narcotics and law-enforcement measures.