On Feb. 15, President Donald Trump announced that he would declare a national emergency in order to tap into reserve funds and build a wall at the southern border. Now, regardless of whether or not you believe there should be a border wall, this should alarm you. Our system of government is cemented in the belief that no particular branch should dominate the others. Thus, our founding fathers devised a system of checks and balances. Now, Trump has decided to attempt to circumvent these measures in order to satisfy his own political desires.
His announcement comes after a 35day government shutdown and a close-call with a second shutdown. In his announcement, he declared that he would sign the newly drafted budget that only included 1.375 billion dollars for his border wall, far below his demand for 5.7 billion, in order to avoid another government shutdown. This may come as a relief for federal employees who suffered from the previous shut down, but it highlights a much scarier issue that will be approaching. The possibility of future Presidents having the ability to manipulate the emergency funds reserved for natural disasters in order to satisfy political whims extends beyond party lines and will likely lead to lengthy court battles to determine its legality.
In his address, Trump mentions that emergency powers had been invoked before. While this is true, the large majority of those times had been to instill sanctions on various foreign diplomats and their assets. Never before has a president used emergency powers as a runaround to fund their own projects, especially after having asked Congress twice for the funds and failing to receive them. If this action is allowed to go through, it sets a dangerous precedent for future leaders. While we may hope that we never are as short-sighted as to elect another man like Trump, there is always the possibility that power may be abused by future presidents seeking an easy solution.
It must not go without mention that the 5.7 billion dollars the president seeks to spend on a 13th century solution to immigration is being taken from a reserve meant for legitimate emergencies. Such abuses of power undermine the very foundation of our democracy, threatening to skew the delicate balance of power set forth by our founding fathers.
This all goes without noting the moral obligation a president has to represent the views of their constituents. Trump’s request for funds to build his wall was rejected not once, but twice. As Congress is made up of democratically elected representatives from their respective areas, the decision to not fund the wall embodies the views of the people. Even after over a month-long shutdown intended to strong-arm the American people into supporting the wall, the answer was no, showing the true conviction of the constituents.
Trump has even gone as far as to acknowledge the possible illegality of the move he’s making, through his mentioning that the action will be sued and make its way to the supreme court. Acknowledging that he knows he’ll be met with such opposition truly demonstrates how desperate the Trump administration is to fulfill its trademark campaign promise.
Whether or not this action shows how futilely the administration is spinning its wheels in place and just throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks, Americans should be concerned. The power of the purse is given to Congress. If the president’s action is allowed to go through, a precedent will be set that could drastically alter how future presidents conduct themselves in the office.