As expected, President Trump signed the compromise Congressional spending deal to keep the government open, despite it containing less than $1.4 billion for border walls, about a quarter as much as he requested, enough for only 55 miles of fencing. Also, despite warnings that the bill was filled with other things that didn’t deserve funding, along with poison pills designed to tie his hands and block him from taking action on his own. For instance, dictating that the 55 miles of fencing can only be built in counties controlled by Democrats who will be given the power to veto it. Why not just build a giant “Welcome” mat instead?
Immediately afterward, Trump made good on his threat to declare border security a national emergency due to violent criminals, massive caravans and drugs coming into the US illegally, and he announced that he would build the border barrier with funding from other sources. The money includes $3.6 billion from the military construction fund, $2.5 billion from a Department of Defense drug interdiction program and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund. Here is the declaration in full:
Trump said he expects his opponents to challenge it, and of course, they immediately did.
Democratic politicians, blue states and activist groups all announced that they would sue to block his emergency declaration in federal court or propose bills to limit his power to declare emergencies.
(A word on the latter: First, those bills would likely be unconstitutional. Second, they would never make it through the GOP Senate. Third, it’s ironic that the same critics who talk about what a terrible precedent Trump’s emergency declaration sets aren’t worried about the precedent they would set by impeding the President’s power to act quickly in a national emergency. There is a reason that the Founders gave the Chief Executive, the only office holder elected by the entire nation, the power to act swiftly and unilaterally in case of national emergencies. They realized that if every emergency required waiting around for months as squabbling partisans debated what to do, we’d all be dead before they agreed on a decision.)
Trump also said he expects his critics to go crying to the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, even though the issue doesn’t belong there, and for that court and the next appeal to go against him, but he hoped the Supreme Court would overrule them, as they often do. Who knows how long that process is going to take? This is another great example of why the Founders gave the power to deal with emergencies to the President, not the courts (and back then, we didn’t even have all those layers of federal judges with delusions of grandeur to work through.)
His opponents will argue that the violent crime, drugs, economic harm and threat of infiltration by terrorists represented by open borders are just a made-up crisis and Trump won’t be able to make the case that it’s really an emergency – even though national invasion is the very definition of an emergency requiring swift action, certainly more so than climate change, government health care or the other issues liberals think are national emergencies. And there are still 31 presidentially-declared national emergencies still in effect, stretching back 20 or so years, and Democrats haven't challenged any of them.
I’d love to hear Democrats explain why they voted to fund border walls for years up until Trump became President, then walls suddenly became “immoral,” even deadly. “Beto” O’Rourke went even further and called for taking down the walls we have now because he claims they “force” people to go to more dangerous areas to enter the US illegally (by the way, that’s a tacit admission that walls work to stop people from crossing the border. It’s also worth mentioning that there were security fences at his rally to denounce the use of physical barriers for security.)
In sort, Trump’s opponents have no rational arguments for changing their minds about border walls other than they’re now channeling Groucho Marx and singing, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It” whenever Trump speaks.
One unforced error that his opponents will try to exploit is Trump’s side remark that “I could do the wall over a longer period of time, I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” They’ll try to claim that’s an admission that it’s not really an emergency. But it could also be interpreted to mean that he could have taken longer to get the funding for the wall, but it was so important it had to be done faster, which fits the definition of an emergency. This is the type of hair-splitting that you don’t want to have to argue over in front of a succession of judges for months on end when there’s an emergency to deal with.