State Politics

Former Idaho congressmen join effort to block President Trump’s border wall

Trump visits section of the border wall in California

President Donald Trump visited a section of the border wall in Calexico, CA on April 5, 2019.
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President Donald Trump visited a section of the border wall in Calexico, CA on April 5, 2019.

Two former Democratic Idaho congressmen, Larry LaRocco and Walt Minnick, have joined a bipartisan group of more than 100 former members of Congress to urge a California court to block President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration on the southern border.

“My love of country, reverence for the U.S. Constitution and belief in the rule of law did not end when I finished my service in the U.S. House of Representatives,” LaRocco told the Statesman. “We must all speak out when we believe American values are being tossed aside.”

LaRocco served in Congress from 1991 to 1995; Minnick served from 2009 to 2011. Both represented the 1st Congressional District comprising western and northern Idaho.

LaRocco and Minnick last week joined a lawsuit filed in February by California and 19 other states alleging it was unconstitutional for Trump to declare a national emergency to unlock money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border after Congress refused to appropriate money for that purpose.

LaRocco said the emergency is “fabricated” and Trump’s use of emergency power is “frivolous.”

Idaho has a connection to federal law setting parameters on a president’s emergency powers.

In the aftermath of the abuses by the executive branch during Watergate, U.S. Sen. Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Charles Mathias, a Maryland Republican, crafted the National Emergencies Act, which Congress passed in 1976.

“[T]he President should not be allowed to invoke emergency authorities or in any way utilize the provisions of this Act for frivolous or partisan matters, nor for that matter in cases where important but not ‘essential’ problems are at stake,” said Church during a Senate committee hearing on the bill. “The Committee intentionally chose language which would make clear that the authority of the Act was to be reserved for matters that are ‘essential’ to the protection of the Constitution and the people.”

LaRocco said Church did this “to protect Americans from a rogue president choosing illegally to exert his power for political purposes.”

The lawsuit filed by the 20 states has asked the judge to grant a preliminary injunction prohibiting Trump from diverting federal funds and resources for the construction of a border wall. A hearing on the motion is set for May 17.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.