Rep. Tom Reed On Congress' Role In Emergency Declarations

Mar 6, 2019
Originally published on March 6, 2019 9:33 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is kind of an uncomfortable moment for Republicans. They are having to say whether they stand with or against President Trump on his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. Now, four Republicans in the Senate say they will vote to block the president's border wall emergency, among them Senator Rand Paul, who predicted many more will join him.

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RAND PAUL: I think they'll be probably 10 Republicans, at least six. And it could be - it could be higher than that. That's still a lot of dissent and a rebuke that could be avoided if the president would simply rescind the emergency part.

GREENE: Now, the Democratic-run House already voted. They passed a resolution to block the emergency. Republican Tom Reed of New York stood with the president in that vote. He sort of stood with the president. He said, this emergency is OK, but he then proposed a bill to put restrictions on presidents trying to do this in the future. And Congressman Reed joins me this morning. Hi, Congressman.

TOM REED: Good morning. Good to be with you, David.

GREENE: Well, it's good to have you. So are you doing a little bit of a political dance here?

REED: No, what I'm trying to do is stand up for the institution and fix the root cause of the problem and recognize that this has occurred as a result of Congress giving up its power over decades. And now what needs to happen is we need to claw that power back and recognize what the president did here - because that power has been delegated to him - is his authority, his decision. But I want to make sure the institution is protected and Congress.

GREENE: Didn't you have a chance to protect the institution and protect congressional authority here in the vote that you just took? Couldn't you have sent a message to the president saying this is not something you believe a president should have the right to do freely, so come back, work with Congress to come up with a solution to the border right now?

REED: No because I recognize that the authority is there. But on top of that, I recognize the emergency action was necessary at the border with the crisis. So even under our reformed proposal that would claw back the authority to Congress, we recognize the president will have the authority to act. But what we have to do is have Congress take action in the affirmative, not a selective disapproval process that we have today. So it is about having Congress have to vote on this situation, rather than what we see is that this is utilized for political purposes under the resolution for disapproval, like what was done in the House.

GREENE: Your colleague, Congressman Chris Collins, another Republican representing the state of New York, says that your bill just - it's not necessary. I mean, he points out that this is a power Congress already has. If that's the case, why should people see this as anything other than trying to find a political path here to both support this president but say that it's really, really important to you, in principle, that Congress keep this power?

REED: Well, 'cause as you look at constitutional theory, if you look at what has happened over the decades, you know, I see that this power has been delegated. And when Congress doesn't want to act, when Congress wants to take a pass, it's very good, in today's day, to do that because it has given up that power. The congressional leadership doesn't want to have to go on record. It wants to pick when it has to go on record, as opposed to be affirmatively required to be on the record. That's the difference. That is what the resolution of disapproval was in the House. It means you have emergency actions from 50 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago that are still on the books because Congress doesn't have to act. Congress can pick and choose when to act. What I affirmatively put in the bill, and what we're standing for, is to stand for the institution, require Congress go on the record. So the - it's completely different than what my colleague is under the impression is the understanding of where we stand today.

GREENE: I want to ask you another question about something Senator Rand Paul said, I mean, when he announced he was voting against the emergency declaration. He said in an op-ed on Fox News, every single Republican I know decried President Obama's use of executive power to legislate. We were right then. But the only way to be an honest office holder is to stand up for the same principles, no matter who is in power.

I mean, he's suggesting by doing what you're doing, you're not an honest office holder, is he not?

REED: I don't agree with that assessment of Senator Paul's position on it. Now, what I recognize is the president's always going to be in a position to have to act in emergency situations. So I recognize the president had the authority. And in this situation at the border, I agree fundamentally there is a crisis at the border, and there's an emergency at the border. But what is the difference is Congress today, under the laws as Congress has set it up and Congress has acted, has given away having to be an equal partner by having to go on the record affirmatively to agree with that emergency action declaration. So this is not about being disingenuous. This is not being about inconsistent for political purposes. This is to say, look; presidents have the authority and will have the authority in the future to act in emergency situations. But Congress has to go on the record in each and every one of those emergency actions, as opposed to what you find today, where Congress picks and choose when it's going to play - like it is today - in the political arena.

GREENE: President Trump, I mean, he'd probably veto this resolution - right? - I mean, based on what we've heard from him. Could you overcome a presidential veto?

REED: I think that if people can - are concerned about solving the root cause of the problem for this president and future presidents, then they would agree - stand with us and hopefully stand up for the institution of Congress and have a check in place in going in the future, as well as, potentially, for the remainder of the administration.

GREENE: Republican Congressman Tom Reed of the state of New York - thanks so much for your time this morning, sir.

REED: Great to be with you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.