Opting to ignore widespread opposition in Congress, including by some members of his own party, President Donald Trump announced Friday morning he was declaring a national emergency to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico.
The Associated Press reported the declaration is widely viewed as Trump’s response to pressure to act unilaterally to sooth his conservative base and avoid appearing as if he’s lost his wall battle.
After two years during which Republicans held majorities in both the House and the Senate — years when Trump was unable to get funding for his wall and fell flat on his promise to his conservative base that Mexico would pay for the wall — Trump was forced to accept a congressional compromise to avoid a second disastrous government shutdown that included about 25 percent of the $5.7 billion he demanded of Congress for his wall.
Trump is now relying on his emergency powers and his declaration of a national emergency to siphon billions of dollars from what aides described as funds allocated for federal military construction and counterdrug efforts to build the wall.
To bridge the gap, Trump announced that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers, combining the $1.4 billion allocated in the congressional compromise with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions, including the national emergency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called Trump’s announcement “an unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist” and it “does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe, stealing from urgently needed defense funds for the security of our military and our nation.”
“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts and in the public, using every remedy available.”
To its credit, the White House said Trump would not try to redirect federal funds allocated for disaster relief to help pay for the wall, a possibility that had already drawn well-deserved threats of legal action.
In his Rose Garden comments announcing the declaration, Trump described how the decision will be challenged and work its way through the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Sadly, we’ll be sued and sadly it will go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think,” he said. We question that his positive attitude will be widely shared.
And we are not convinced that Trump truly believes he will, in the end, win this battle. While he says there is, he has yet to prove there is an emergency along the border — that his actions are anything but a last-ditch effort to sooth his conservative base to which he promised so much and has delivered so little.
Trump’s declaration sets the stage to blame Congress and the courts for his inability to convince Congress there truly is an emergency along our southern border or a real need for a wall.