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The (Fake) National Emergency

By Tyler Bauer

It’s no secret that President Trump has been trying to implement his ideal form of border security since he took office over two years ago. However, despite the Republicans controlling every branch of the federal government for the first two years of his presidency, President Trump was unable to secure the necessary funding and support for the border wall he promised to build. Last month, after failing (yet again, this time with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives) to secure adequate funding for the wall, President Trump resorted to a drastic measure.

One month ago, President Trump declared a national emergency on the Mexican border. The President justified this declaration by saying that “the flow of drugs, criminals, and illegal immigrants” over the border constituted a national emergency. There’s a lot wrong with this, but a few things stand out in particular.

An Obvious Money-Grab

Perhaps I’m being too cynical (I’m always too cynical), but President Trump’s national emergency declaration seems like a declaration made only to gain money and power. Generally, Congress controls the appropriation and spending of tax dollars. President Trump may make suggestions on appropriations and spending, but ultimately, Congress controls the budget, which can then be signed by President Trump. However, by declaring a national emergency, President Trump has increased control over the budget, thus allowing him to divert funds towards building the wall. Therefore, it doesn’t take much imagination to see this as a money-grab and nothing more.

Is This an Emergency?

It is entirely possible for drugs, crime, and immigration to reach levels that constitute a national emergency. However, I don’t think either of those three issues are so pressing as to justify declaring a national emergency. Are they problems? Of course. But they certainly aren’t emergencies.

For those who think that the declaration of a national emergency was justified, answer the following: What changed in February that made the situation markedly worse than the situation in January? Was there a significant increase in overdoses or drug-related crimes? Was there a substantial increase in crime across the country? Did the number of immigrants crossing the border – legally or otherwise – reach such a level that it simply cannot be allowed? I think the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “No.”

One may ask, “What constitutes an emergency?” That’s a good question. To my knowledge, there isn’t a clearly-defined, agreed-upon standard for what constitutes a “national emergency.” Could the border situation be an actual national emergency? I don’t think so, but it’s certainly possible. However, one thing is for sure. If the border situation wasn’t a national emergency in the twenty-five months before President Trump declared a national emergency, it definitely isn’t a national emergency in the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh months of his presidency.

A Slippery Slope

I’m not surprised that Trump’s supporters are supporting him on the national emergency declaration. A lot of his supporters will support him on everything, regardless of the context. This is especially true when it comes to the border, which was Trump’s main issue on the campaign trail. Many of his supporters voted for him solely – or at least largely – due to his stance on the border. As a result, his supporters will support anything that furthers Trump’s cause, regardless of how it’s done.

I think Trump’s supporters are being extremely short-sighted on this issue. While the national emergency declaration may allow the border wall to be built, it also sets a dangerous precedent for anyone interested in limiting executive power. President Trump’s national emergency was seemingly declared not because an actual national emergency exists, but to achieve a political goal. If President Trump is able to declare a national emergency to achieve his goal of building the wall, a Democratic president would be equally able to declare a national emergency to ban firearms (to combat gun violence, which could be deemed a national emergency), to ban certain vehicles (to combat climate change, which could be deemed a national emergency), and so on. While these hypothetical scenarios are unlikely, allowing President Trump to declare a national emergency to achieve his political goal would allow his successors to do the same.

The Senate Responds

Thankfully, President Trump isn’t being allowed free reign on this issue. Yesterday, the Senate voted to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration. According to CNN, the House of Representatives is likely to hold a vote on President Trump’s national emergency declaration later this month. Seeing as the Republican-controlled Senate blocked President Trump’s declaration, I expect a similar result in the Democrat-controlled House.

President Trump Fights Back

As is customary for President Trump, he took to Twitter immediately after the Senate finished voting, Tweeting, “VETO!”

Earlier today, President Trump acted on this Tweet by signing the first veto of his presidency. As a part of his veto, President Trump justified his declaration by stating that his highest duty as President is to protect the nation and its people. He further claimed that declaring a national emergency is necessary to carry out his duty. It’s unclear what will come next, but President Trump seemingly isn’t going to go down without a fight.

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