Alabama’s U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Thursday that while he agrees there are problems along the United States-Mexico border that must be addressed, using the military as a political pawn and declaring a national emergency is not the way to solve them.
His counterpart from Alabama who serves on the Armed Services Committee in the House, however, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, said that President Donald Trump as commander-in-chief has every right to use the military if all other options are exhausted in securing the border, which he said includes the need for a barrier that Trump has called a wall.
Why he shouldn’t
“No, I don’t think it’s a proper use under these circumstances,” Jones told the Opelika-Auburn News from his office in Washington. “The president has continually hyper-inflated numbers. He has been so misleading, and it is a problem.”
The senator, a Democrat, also criticized President Trump’s calling the border issue “a crisis” to justify deploying troops to the border and talk of declaring a national emergency to divert military funding toward building a border wall.
Jones said he does not dispute the need for greater security measures to be taken on the border, but he disagrees with the need for a government shutdown and he disagrees with what little he says he’s heard of Trump’s plans to build an almost 2,000-mile long wall.
“There is a problem. There is no sugarcoating that. It needs to be more secure. But to declare it’s a national emergency and to divert funds committed to the military… is wrong,” Jones said.
Reflecting similar reaction from other Democrats in Congress, Jones said that the use of drones, new technology and other measures are needed, and that a blanket wall mandate, which Trump has said he wants for the entire border, would be an expensive mistake.
“He has inflated the numbers so badly,” Jones said in response to Trump’s shared statistics on drug trafficking and illegal immigration along the border. “A barrier is not going to stop all of that. They’ll still use the high seas, air and other means.”
Why he should
Rogers, also speaking Thursday with the Opelika-Auburn News, said that talk of a border wall has become distorted with misrepresented visual connotations instead of focus on national security.
“The wall has always been a fence-like barrier. There has been a vision put forth by some Democrats that it will be the Great Wall of China or that type thing,” Rogers said. “There has always been talk of a barrier, but he’s used the term wall, and that’s been problematic.”
He criticized Democrats for being hypocritical.
“Another thing that drives me nuts: This has always been a two-party solution until Trump got elected. It has always been a bipartisan issue to secure our borders,” Rogers said. “Obama said some of the exact same things, but it’s bad now because it’s coming out of (Trump’s) mouth instead of Barack Obama’s.”
Rogers agreed that constructing a barrier should be only one part of the solution.
“Technology and people are part of the system just like a barrier is part of the system,” he said. “To be effective, we need all of it.
“It’s part of a system and I think the president is right to do this.”
A question of power
Although the two lawmakers working with armed services in Congress disagree on whether Trump should try to use emergency powers to divert military resources to build the wall, they agree it is not a preferred action.
“I would prefer he not go into military spending, but he is the commander in chief and if he sees this as the only way to secure the border, he has to do what he has to do,” Rogers said. “It is a security issue, and I feel he has a right to do it.”
Rogers, who also is gaining a leadership role on the House Homeland Security Committee, said that if Trump does declare an emergency, perhaps the funding request for a barrier would be taken away from the needed appropriations bill that is required to end the ongoing government shutdown.
But he insists security comes first.
Trump “outlined the crisis, and how we’re being invaded by bad actors,” Rogers said. “The powers the commander in chief has under the declaration of an emergency are very broad.”
Rogers also acknowledged that some in Congress would not like to see the executive office moving funds without approval from the legislative branch of government, something Jones feels will be an equally explosive issue if Trump tries to do so with an emergency declaration.
“This is beyond what we have seen any president do in the past,” Jones said, “if he does; and I hope he doesn’t.
“And I don’t think the Republicans in Congress want to see him do it,” the senator said. “It would be taking a lot of authority from the Congress, and I think you’ll see Congress trying to take some of that power back.”
Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.