As expected, the House has voted to block Donald Trump’s border emergency declaration.
This was a foregone conclusion. Even before Trump strode out into the Rose Garden on February 15 and proceeded to immediately undercut his own case by accidentally admitting that there was not in fact an emergency (in his own words, “I didn’t need to do this”), Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro made it clear that he was prepared to introduce a measure to terminate the declaration.
“This is a fake emergency,” Castro said, adding that “in the past, presidents have called national emergencies over national security issues or disasters.”
Subsequently, Nancy Pelosi called on lawmakers to support to resolution, insisting in a letter that “President Trump’s emergency declaration proclamation undermines the separation of powers and Congress’s power of the purse, a power exclusively reserved by the text of the Constitution to the first branch of government, the Legislative branch, a branch co-equal to the Executive”.
The final vote was 245-182, with 13 Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats in favor of the measure. The margin fell short of a veto-proof majority.
This will now go to the Senate, which must vote within 18 days.
While Trump has promised to veto the resolution, it would be extremely embarrassing if it passes the Senate, and it looks like it might. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins will likely support it and on Monday, an Op-Ed for the Washington Post:said he too would back the resolution. Here’s what he wrote in
Although Trump certainly has legitimate grievances over congressional Democrats’ obstruction of border-security funding, his national emergency declaration on Feb. 15 was not the right answer.
From the perspective of the chief executive, I can understand why the president would assert his powers with the emergency declaration to implement his policy agenda. After all, nearly every president in the modern era has similarly pushed the boundaries of presidential power, many with the helping hand of Congress.
In fact, if I were the leader of the Constitution’s Article II branch, I would probably declare an emergency and use all the tools at my disposal as well. But I am not. I am a member of the Senate, and I have grave concerns when our institution looks the other way at the expense of weakening Congress’s power.
It is my responsibility to be a steward of the Article I branch, to preserve the separation of powers and to curb the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the past century. I stood by that principle during the Obama administration, and I stand by it now.
There you go. Tillis also cited the prospect that future Democratic presidents would piggyback on Trump’s power grab to push their own agenda.
“Republicans need to realize that this will lead inevitably to regret when a Democrat once again controls the White House, cites the precedent set by Trump, and declares his or her own national emergency to advance a policy that couldn’t gain congressional approval”, he went on to write.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’ve been saying for months that Trump risked GOP defections if he declared a national emergency for the very reason that Tillis cited above. Any Republican with any sense would vote to terminate Trump’s farcical emergency if for no other reason than to avoid a scenario where a prospective Democratic president declares an emergency based on something far more verifiable like, for instance, climate change.
In any case, Mitch McConnell says he’ll support Trump’s declaration but when pressed on whether it’s actually legal, he demurred.
“Well, we’re in the process of weighing that”, he told NBC Tuesday, adding that he “hasn’t reached a total conclusion.”
One thing’s for sure, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and the people of Michigan don’t think it’s legal, because they’ve all sued Trump.
In any case, if this passes the Senate and Trump is forced to veto it, already bad optics would become immeasurably worse and even if Congress can’t muster a veto-proof majority, subsequent legal battles over the declaration would doubtlessly include allusions to Congress having passed, in both chambers, a resolution to declare it null and void.
Meanwhile, media scrutiny of this is only going to get worse for the White House. As soon as Trump starts trying to seize federal funds and divert them to the wall, every liberal news outlet in the country is going to pounce, where that means detailing exactly what’s not being funded so Trump can build his wall.