Angry that he doesn’t have the votes in Congress to get his way, Trump now says he “would almost say definitely” that he’ll declare a national emergency to get his border wall. And the White House is working on a plan to divert money from the military budget and from disaster relief programs to pay for it.
So he’s willing to assert executive power he doesn’t have, bypass Congress entirely, to divert money from responding to and preparing for actual emergencies in order to get a wall for his phony immigration emergency. So we’ve gone from “We’re gonna build a big, beautiful wall and Mexico is gonna pay for it” to “We’re gonna build a big, beautiful wall and make people who lost their homes in hurricanes and wildfires pay for it.” This doesn’t seem like a compelling slogan to me.
The administration is eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, specifically a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion allocated but not spent for civil works projects, two people with knowledge of the developments said Thursday…
The list includes dozens of flood control projects in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and parts of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The military construction budget is also being looked at as a potential source for unspent funds, with billions more potentially available there.
It would be immediately challenged in court, of course, with multiple lawsuits already prepared by various groups, including state attorneys general. But this may be the way out of the impasse over the shutdown, because Trump doesn’t actually care about building the wall, he only cares about appearing to fight to the death to get one.
If such a declaration allowed the government to open back up but led to his emergency order being overturned by the courts, that would be a good result and it would benefit the Democrats politically. But that’s risky. The courts have generally avoided second guessing the president on matters of national security, but even with that deference there is simply no serious case to be made that this is a crisis or an emergency of any kind.