Trump’s National Emergency

The way in which president Trump is appropriating funds for the wall on the United States-Mexico Border should concern every American. Regardless of one’s opinion on immigration, border security or the idea of a border wall itself, the method Trump is using to fund this project is setting a dangerous precedent. The president is declaring a national emergency to fund a project that Congress denied funds for multiple times.

The Constitution of the United States contains rules about the legislature’s duty to appropriate funds and publish a budget. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution states: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” This states that only lawmakers can appropriate funds. The lawmakers are the legislature, not the president. The president’s job is to sign off and enforce the policies that Congress passes, not to pass his own policies.

Congress has told President Trump that they do not authorize the requested $5.7 billion of funding for a wall on the border with Mexico. After the longest government shutdown in American history and a compromise budget, Congress authorized $1.3 billion for border security, which leaves a $4.4 billion difference between what Trump asked for and what he got.

This should have been the end of it. The elected officials tasked with appropriating funds made a decision, and the Constitution grants them the power to make that decision.

Instead of listening to Congress and signing a bill that passed houses of Congress controlled by both parties, Trump stated he will instead use his power to declare a national emergency to appropriate funds from other areas to fund the wall. The US Constitution and the National Emergencies Act does actually allow this to happen and would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to repeal. There is no clear definition of what actually constitutes a “national emergency” so the president can declare one using any rationale he deems reasonable.

This is what makes this declaration of emergency so dangerous. It sets a precedent that grants any sitting president far too much power. One of the strongest powers Congress has is the power to appropriate funds. This power is intentionally kept from the president to prevent one person from unilaterally making policy decisions that affect every American.

The ability to declare a national emergency to work around this is an oversight that has not been used in this way in the past. If successful, it will be used by future presidents. Both Democrat and Republican presidents will see this declaration of national emergency as a way to ignore the will of Congress and render Congress useless. It is important that national emergencies be used only when there is an actual emergency, and not as a way to bypass an uncooperative Congress.