Bethlehem Press

Friday, April 3, 2020

Toomey talks about voting against Trump’s declaration

Thursday, April 18, 2019 by Danielle Derrickson in Local News

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania, sat down with the Press during recent a visit to Carbon County to discuss his vote against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, climate change, the National Emergencies Act and specific issues faced by the county.

The conversation started with Toomey’s March 14 vote against the president’s national emergency, which the president declared in February. Trump’s declaration came on the tail of the longest government shutdown in history, after Congress agreed to allocate only $1.375 billion of the $5.7 billion requested by Trump to build 200 miles of barrier at the southern border.

Toomey was one of 12 Republicans to vote against Trump’s declaration.

“One of the many ironies of this situation is that I fully support adding to the border wall that we have today,” Toomey said.

Toomey pointed out that the president could have used the $1.375 billion Congress approved, as well as $600 million in asset forfeiture funds — money and property with alleged ties to a crime that are subsequently seized by law enforcement officials — instead of declaring a national emergency.

The senator said those resources, along with $4 billion from the Department of Defense, which has already been designated for border barriers, could have funded Trump’s barrier.

“Here is the funding available to the president to fully fund what it is he wants to build, and what I want to build,” Toomey said. “And that’s what I thought the president should have done.”

National Emergencies Act

Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act in 1976, and in its original form, the act gave Congress the ability to terminate a presidential emergency declaration or a legislative veto.

That was before the Supreme Court’s 1983 decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, which deemed legislative vetoes unconstitutional.

“Congress would never have passed that if they knew that the congressional role — the ability of Congress to put a check on a president exercising that authority — was all going to go away,” Toomey said.

Toomey co-sponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies Act, or the ARTICLE ONE Act.

The bill would have put a 30-day expiration date on future executive national emergency declarations, that is unless Congress voted to prolong it.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed dated March 14, Toomey wrote that “a dangerous precedent would be set” if Trump’s declaration went unchallenged. He cited a February instance in which Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, was interviewed on an episode of the “Late Late Show” as evidence.

When asked by the show’s host, James Corden, what she believes “would constitute a national emergency” if she were president, Warren gave three answers: climate change, gun violence and student loan debt.

Climate change

Toomey said that the over the past few years, the U.S. economy has been growing, and “our emissions of carbon dioxide have been declining.”

“In absolute terms, the United States of America released less carbon dioxide into the air last year than it did 10 years before,” he said. “I don’t see this discussed very much, but it’s pretty significant, and that’s the trend we’ve been on.”

But a report from an independent research firm called Rhodium Group states that the country’s booming economy has led to boost in electricity, trucking and aviation usage — and as a result, rising emissions.

According to NPR, Trevor Houser, of Rhodium, said emissions rose roughly 3.4 percent in 2018.

In the face of climate reports circling the web, all of which paint a picture of a potentially catastrophic not-so-distant future, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, introduced her own bill: The Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal includes provisions like getting the world to net-zero emissions by 2050 and ensuring jobs that provide a “family sustaining wage.”

But Toomey called those reports “unprovable,” saying that measures like the Green New Deal “would dramatically diminish the standard of living of Americans.”

“Most of the specific ideas are like physical impossibilities, and those that aren’t physically impossible but are extremely implausible, they are extraordinarily expensive,” Toomey said.

When asked what people will do if scientists’ predictions do start to come true, Toomey said that they “will adapt.”

“As we adapt, we will adapt with ever more technology, ever more tools, ever more sophistication in our ability to adapt, and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

The senator spent the afternoon at Bethlehem City Hall, speaking about the fentanyl crisis, and his bill: Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act, which he introduced with Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

“Our legislation is designed to create a greater incentive for countries that originate fentanyl — a greater incentive for them to crack down on their own domestic fentanyl production,” Toomey said.

“What I want to do is increase the price that the government of these countries have to pay if they are not doing as much as we think they should to help us and cooperate with us in preventing the production and distribution of fentanyl,” he said.