We are now in a state of national emergency in order to build President Trump’s wall.
Congress refused to appropriate money to build President Trump’s promised wall on the border between the United States and Mexico even when both houses of the legislature were under Republican control. Now that the House of Representatives is in the hand of the Democrats there seemed to be little chance of getting a wall approved. A standoff on the issue led to a government shutdown, and a number of Trump’s supporters reviled him for “caving” on his promise when he signed a temporary appropriation bill without getting a wall in return. Once that temporary measure expired, it looked like the government might shut down again, but a compromise was struck in which Democrats did give him $1.375 billion for physical barriers, far short of the $5 billion he requested.
But now the President got his victory. After signing the spending bill keeping the government open and pocketing the $1.375 billion for his project, President Trump declared a national emergency, which gives him the ability to tap other money by the assertion of executive power. By taking $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture money, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s drug interdiction money, and $3.5 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction money, he will have some $8 billion for the wall, significantly more than the $5 billion he asked for in the beginning!
Not only that, by tapping into over $3 billion taken from drug dealers, he can make good on his campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the wall! (The idea of confiscating $14 billion from the recently-convicted drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman is a brilliant idea, but it will be difficult to get our hands on it.)
So give President Trump credit for his tactics. But his victory has other costs beyond the dollars for the wall. If a President can use executive power to get what he wants when Congress says “no,” what does that do to our Constitutional system of checks and balances? Is it a step backwards away from Democracy to a monarchical system, in which a single person, whether a king or a dictator, rules with absolute power?Yes, Barack Obama used executive orders to thwart the Republican-dominated legislature’s refusal to pass his favored policies, including a more liberal approach to illegal immigration. But conservatives denounced that tactic as anti-constitutional and as endangering our democracy.
Can conservatives now approve of that tactic just because a Republican is doing it and because it favors a policy they support? Wouldn’t that be the same kind of relativism that conservatives decry elsewhere in postmodern culture?
Nancy Pelosi is rubbing her hands with glee at the prospect of what a Democratic president could do with these powers. The Left–especially the neo-socialist Left that is ascendant today among Progressives–is arguably not as leery of all-powerful governments with unlimited heads of state as conservatives tend to be. Listen to what the Democrats are saying:
“A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”
“Let’s talk about today: The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America,” Pelosi said. “That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.
“But a Democratic president can do that.”Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) also shared a tweet calling several issues championed by Democrats, such as climate change and income inequality, a “national emergency.”