HURON – Although both the Senate and the House have passed a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the Mexican border, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., voted no, saying a 1976 law gives the executive branch access to the funds he wants to tap to build a wall.
“He used the tool that was available,” he said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “He truly believes there’s a real emergency at the southern border.”
However, 12 Senate Republicans joined Democrats in blocking the order, with some arguing that the declaration violates the U.S. Constitution. Some said it was a dangerous precedent that opens the door for future presidents to declare other emergencies.
While that 43-year-old law gives the president the authority, it’s something that should be revisited because it has no definition of what constitutes a national emergency and leaves it up to the chief executive with no guidance, Rounds said.
With the law, Congress gave part of the purse strings to the executive branch, but he said it’s not something that today’s legislative branch believes is still appropriate.
Tens of thousands of people are coming across the border every month, and it is overwhelming border agents to the point where they aren’t able to keep up with illegal drugs entering the country, Rounds said. Other senators who voted against the resolution agreed with Rounds that there is an emergency at the border.
Rounds said he understands the president is willing to look at the 1976 law and negotiate with Congress to find common ground.
Meanwhile, Rounds said he is keeping a close eye on the weather situation in South Dakota, particularly in terms of flooding.
“Flooding, for me, is top of mind,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had challenges in the past in managing water releases from the main stem dams on the Missouri River, and Rounds has, at times, been critical of the agency.
He said he won’t criticize the Corps if they move swiftly to manage the river. New snow pack monitoring equipment is being tested at South Dakota State University, but it will be up to two years before all of it is installed.
The equipment will be installed in many places in the Upper Plains area where there has been a lack of information in the past, he said.
Rounds is praising the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to allow year-round sales of E15, saying it could not only result in about 700 million gallons of additional ethanol sold annually, or the equivalent of 280 million bushels of corn, it will introduce the rest of the country to the pricing and octane benefits of ethanol.
“It’s a good deal for South Dakota,” he said. “It allows us to market our product across the country.”
Vendors have been reluctant to install ethanol pumps because they were unable to sell it year-round, he said.
E15 is 15 percent ethanol blended with 85 percent gasoline. The proposed rule would allow E15 to be sold year-round without additional Reid Vapor Pressure control, rather than just eight months out of the year.