Trump’s Declaration of Emergency: Into The Fire?

Trump’s Declaration of Emergency: Into The Fire?


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Donald Trump reportedly will sign the border security spending bill emerging from Congress, in time to avert a second partial federal shutdown, which would have begun Saturday, February 16.

However, since that legislation will provide Trump just a fraction of the funds to construct the waĺl on the southern border which he demands, Trump has said he plans to go ahead with the deeply controversial move of declaring a “state of emergency” in order to circumvent the congressional funding level and repurpose other federal funds toward wall construction.

Although Trump’s move is broadly pleasing to the extent it prevents a second federal shutdown, that is where is where bipartisan agreement ends.

Trump’s move to declare a “state of emergency” surely will soothe his right-wing base.

But beyond that, the wider political fallout from the American public overall over this this emergency declaration has the potential, at least, to make the pushback Trump and the GOP experienced over the previous 35-day shutdown seem like nothing.

To start with, a majority of the American people oppose Trump issuing this emergency declaration. Some 66 percent oppose such a move, while just 31 percent approve, according to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll. Some 3 percent were either unsure or gave no answer.

To be expected, the Democrats in control of the House plan to fight back with everything they’ve got. They intend to pass a joint resolution of disapproval.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

“It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one,” the statement adds. “He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”

Their joint resolution will be no mere symbolic rebuke, however. Because it is privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be forced to bring it to a vote.

And that is a vote McConnell could lose.

Many Republican senators are playing it cool for now, but enough of them have raised concerns over Trump’s intended action to pose a problem.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among those who have spoken out.

“I’m disappointed with both the massive, bloated, secretive bill that just passed and with the president’s intention to declare an emergency to build a wall,” Paul says.

“I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas. But how we do things matters. Over 1,000 pages dropped in the middle of the night and extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is another Republican who spoke out, tweeting: “We have a crisis at the southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), no stranger to skirmishing with Trump, stopped short of complete opposition for the moment, but made plain he is not pleased.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), a potentially vulnerable incumbent up for re-election next year, also registered her disapproval.

“Declaring a national emergency for this purpose would be a mistake on the part of the President. I don’t believe that the National Emergencies Act contemplates a President unilaterally reallocating billions of dollars, already designated for specific purposes, outside of the normal appropriations process,” she said. “The National Emergencies Act was intended to apply to major natural disasters or catastrophic events, such as the attacks on our country on 9/11.

“Such a declaration would undermine the role of Congress and the appropriations process; it’s just not good policy. It also sets a bad precedent for future Presidents—both Democratic and Republican—who might seek to use this same maneuver to circumvent Congress to advance their policy goals,” Collins added. “It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts.”

With this much discord, Trump has the potential to open a full-scale civil war within his own Republican Party.

But beyond whatever action takes place in Congress, expect potentially many lawsuits filed across the country, should Trump go ahead with his declaration. Each of those lawsuits would seek to block construction of Trump’s waĺl.

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