Trump’s Right: Republicans Opposing His “National Emergency” Because A Future Democrat Might Do The Same, Is A Bunch Of BS
What is real is the mortal fear of offending the President and his base
So lawmakers in his party seem to have hitched on to a new strategy, which just might work. They’re trying to point the President to places in the existing budget where there’s money they’ve already allocated he can potentially designate for wall construction. At least as much, or maybe even more than he expects to get through his “National Emergency”.
Why didn’t the President think of that on his own? One reason we can think of is it’s part of his brand always to do everything in the loudest way possible.
How can he get away with what those Republicans in Congress are now recommending? This isn’t a perfect analogy, but think of the President as the CEO of a major public corporation. They typically don’t fully own or fund that corporation. Shareholders and the Board of Directors do. Yet they have a lot of discretion about how that company is run during their period of leadership, based on their vision for it.
As far as we can tell, this revamped approach was originally floated by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander in a speech on the Senate floor at the end of February. And he’s been expanding on it and hammering at it from the floor of the Senate ever since. Alexander suggests Trump can use money from parts of the military budget dedicated to fighting drug trafficking. (As we mentioned yesterday, most U.S. spending in Central America right now is in the area of stopping drug traffickers). Here’s a clip (click on the photo to watch):
In the past few days, that idea is gaining a lot more traction as the Senate nears a deadline for voting on a resolution that would block Trump’s “National Emergency”. Until he vetoes it, that is.
“The amount of money that’s available to him without declaring an emergency does meet his request,” says Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. But perhaps even more telling: another Republican Senator refused to go on the record in an interview with the Hill, even though all they are saying is something that sounds totally innocuous: “I think there’s an easier way to do this”. (The implication being but not if the President doesn’t agree.)
There’s been no sign yet the President is even considering this alternative idea. Or maybe he already considered it, and threw it out. But it would save both sides the embarrassment of a major intraparty conflict. (That’s the Democrats’ bag these days…) It would also mean he’d have to back down, at least a little.
So the stakes for Congress are higher than for the President. In fact, the President might want to follow through on his “National Emergency” for precisely the same reason some Republicans don’t want him to do it: it would weaken Congress’ ability to stand up to him in the future.
For those pundits pushing back by saying it’s Congress that gave the President the right to declare a national emergency, so if they want to oppose it they should change the law, that’s true. At the same time, the expansion in powers was to give the President the ability to be nimble in times of immediate danger, and even if that wasn’t specified explicitly, there are plenty of eventualities laws of all kinds don’t cover because their authors never envision someone using them in a way they didn’t intend. In this case, not to get a head start, but to get money Congress already refused to give.
Which gets us back to our original point: this has nothing to do with the predilections of an unknown, yet-to-be-elected, future Democratic President, and everything to do with the political risk associated with publicly opposing this President.
So rather than simply say they’re opposing Trump because they’re defending the Constitution, they instead try to figure out a way to blame Democrats. (To his credit, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul did not attempt to obfuscate his intent, saying: “I can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the President….”).
And the President, at a Conservative gathering last weekend, told an audience not to worry an (as of now) fictional future Democrat following in his footsteps, because “they’re going to do it anyway”. Here’s that clip (click on the photo to watch):
That’s pure Trump: assuming since he lies and cheats so much, everybody else will too. And everybody’s playing the same zero sum break-all-the-rules game he always is.
We don’t think he’s necessarily right. As we’ve said before, President Obama pushed the limits of executive authority, but never this far. And a future Democratic President should realize though it might be tempting to follow in Trump’s footsteps, ignoring Congress, and what the Constitution says about who’s supposed to do what in this government, instantly creates an authoritarian society. So we’re not so sure about what Trump’s so sure about. But he’s President, and we’re not.
And there’s a more immediate problem with that Republican politicians’ excuse: there’s almost no way that potential, misbehaving Democratic President would be in power for another almost 3–6 years. So why worry about it today?
Pretty clearly what this comes down to and what it’s all about is the unquestioning loyalty of Trump’s devotees, which leads to his ever tightening grip on the party, as evidenced by his consistently astoundingly good poll numbers among Republicans.
And Trump makes no secret of how he feels about people who cross him, even in matters of principle and honor. Nor is he reluctant to instruct his minions to turn on them. Telling Sean Hannity recently (with mob boss like certainty):
“I really think that Republicans that vote against border security and the wall…I think you know, I’ve been OK at predicting things…I think they put themselves at great jeopardy.”