Maybe you’ve heard this one before…
September, 1787. Ben Franklin, the oldest of the Framers is exiting Constitution Hall in Philadelphia at the closing of the Constitutional Convention. A crowd approaches him and asks what kind of government the delegates had created.
Old Ben replies, “A Republic, if you can keep it”.
Flash forward to February 15, 2019.
In the face of yet another government shutdown, Congress delivers the best possible compromise legislation (in our current political climate) to keep the government open despite deep differences of opinion on what should be done about our southern border. It contains very little funding for a small stretch of barrier on the border.
The president agrees to sign the legislation, but also declares a “national emergency” for the “crisis” at the southern border so he can divert funds to build his wall. In his announcement, he claimed that he “…could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this”.
With that announcement, he turned a make believe national “emergency” into a very real constitutional one.
The Framers knew what they were doing when they placed the checkbook in the hands of Congress. Section 9 of the Constitution states:
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law
In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, formalizing the emergency powers of the President. The Act allows presidents to bypass Congress in a national emergency situation in order to speed aid to those in need during an emergency situation.
However, the National Emergencies Act does not define what an emergency actually is.
So, is this border situation a national emergency? Let’s see…
- Trump began his 2016 campaign in 2015 by using scare tactics about Mexico sending us “rapists” and “criminals”. In his very first public appearance as a candidate, he vowed to build a wall
- The GOP controlled both houses of Congress from 2017 until 2019 and could not agree on funding for the wall amongst themselves
- Total border apprehensions have dropped from a peak of 1.6 million in fiscal year 2000 to a total of 300 thousand in FY 2017
- The timing and verbiage used in the declaration of this particular emergency are suspect:
- Announced while simultaneously signing into law a spending bill in which the president had hoped to receive funds for his campaign-promise wall
- He actually had the audacity to say during this announcement that he “didn’t need to do it”. What kind of national emergency situation is optional?
Our friends on the other side like to say that any objection to this is just “Trump hating” and that other presidents have declared emergencies too. While many of us do oppose anything the man says, this is not a partisan issue. We are not objecting to him declaring a national emergency, we should all be appalled at his declaration of this national emergency, regardless of our political beliefs.
Why? Because it is clear that his only motivation for this is because he didn’t get what he wanted from Congress in terms of funding for his wall. That may be an emergency for Mr. Trump, but it is not a national emergency.
The system of checks & balances and the frequent elections in the House of Representatives as designed by our Founding Fathers is working as designed. In 2016, the people may have elected Trump fairly, but in 2018 the people also opted to give Democrats a house of Congress fairly (well, mostly, but that’s another post). The Democrat-led House of Representatives successfully negotiated a compromise on border security with the other party. The fact that it did not fit in with Mr. Trump’s political plans is not an emergency. It is the voice of the people being heard.
If this national emergency is allowed to stand, we should make no mistake: Our Republic is very much in danger. Elected presidents of republican states DO NOT abuse executive authority to override the legislature. Dictators do.
And to bring this home, it is important to note that our representative in Congress is cheering on the destruction of our republic. Jody Hice (R-GA10) has publicly declared that he stands with Trump on this on national TV (on Fox News, of course).
Again, this is not a partisan issue. This is an abuse of power and a full-on assault on the Constitution that cannot be allowed to stand.
Ben Franklin had another great quote:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Our hyper partisan times combined with recent GOP fear mongering is very close to destroying our republic. We must stay alert.