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Ted Cruz still unconvinced on Trump’s emergency declaration

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the Senate’s most knowledgeable experts on constitutional law, remains skeptical of the merits of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border wall, he told the Star-Telegram Tuesday.

“I am still assessing the legal authority of the arguments that the administration is putting forward,” Cruz said after a meeting with White House lawyers off the Senate chamber earlier that day.

The meeting was aimed at reassuring Republican senators, many of whom publicly urged the White House not to use an emergency declaration to pull money they’ve appropriated for government agencies to fund a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are courting Republican support for a bill to block Trump’s emergency declaration, which passed the Democrat-controlled House Tuesday night with the help of 13 Republicans.

The Republican-controlled Senate expects to take up the bill before leaving town for the next recess, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who told reporters Tuesday he’s also unsure of the White House’s legal defense of its emergency declaration. Three GOP senators have said they would support the Democrats’ measure when it comes to the Senate.

“I emphatically agree that we have a crisis at the border and that we need to solve it, and I am grateful that the president and the administration are leading to secure the border and to build a wall,” said Cruz, who is among the Senate’s toughest border security voices.

“At the same time I’ve long said that any president, Republican or Democrat, must follow the constitution and must follow the laws,” added Cruz, a constitutional lawyer who made his career suing the federal government for overreach as Texas’ solicitor general.

“So I’m taking the time to consider and analyze the specific statutory authorities the administration is relying upon and their arguments as to why they might apply,” Cruz said.

His skepticism comes as Texas’ other senator, John Cornyn, who along with other Texans asked Trump not to use the emergency powers, conceded Tuesday that he believes president is within his legal rights.

“While I think this is regrettable precedent and it didn’t need to happen, it’s pretty clear that the president does have the authority to declare an emergency and reprogram money,” Cornyn told the Star-Telegram.

“If Congress doesn’t like it — and I don’t think Congress likes it very much — then we need to change those statutes,” added Cornyn, who is also a lawyer.

Cruz said he’d met with the White House to discuss their legal arguments outside of Tuesday’s meeting, and continued to ask questions to the lawyers who came with Vice President Mike Pence to Capitol Hill.

He declined to share his specific concerns, but described the meeting as “robust” and a “productive conversation.”

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She is a Corinth, Texas, native and graduate of the Bob Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University. She returns home frequently to visit family, get her fix of Fuzzy’s Tacos and cheer on the Horned Frogs.