Opinion

A Real Emergency

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Posted: Feb 17, 2019 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
A Real Emergency

Source: AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced he would declare the situation at the border to be a national emergency to enable him to move previously allocated money to fund a border wall. This was a long-telegraphed punch that had already sent leftists and some Republicans clutching their pearls since the idea was first floated weeks ago. Lost in all of this is the fact that this action, while taken by the president, is 100 percent the fault of Congress. 

I have to say at the outset, I want a wall built where a wall is needed. I don’t claim to have the expertise on where those places are, but the people who have the job of protecting this country do and they have spoken. Our elected politicians, particularly Democrats, would rather play identity politics and appeal to their radical base than protect our country. It’s disgraceful.

That said, I’m not a fan of the declaration of the national emergency. It’s not that I don’t think hundreds of thousands of un-screened illegal aliens and millions of pounds of drugs flowing across the border constitutes an emergency, it clearly does. It’s that I don’t like the idea of a president, any president, being able to subvert the will of legislative branch. 

Yes, half the legislative branch is currently in the hands of people uninterested in their constitutional duties, but they didn’t seize power, they were elected because the people they defeated didn’t do the things they promised they’d do. Actions have consequences. 

But consequences and horrible people do not override the Constitution. I opposed it when Barack Obama created laws with his magic pen not because I thought DACA was bad (which I do), but because it was an unconstitutional action. 

In this case, President Trump has some cover with the National Emergencies Act of 1976 which grants the President the ability to declare a national emergency and activate special powers to address that emergency.

The situation on the border is an emergency, no matter what Democrats say. One American killed by an illegal alien is an emergency, a completely avoidable tragedy they are content to ignore. The draw of identity politics is all they have, and it works. While combating that is crucial, violating the Constitution to do it shouldn’t be the pathway to do it.

The real problem isn’t President Trump’s declaring of a national emergency. The problem is Congress ceding power to the Executive Branch to empower anyone in office the ability to consider it in the first place.

Congress has the power of the purse, they say where the money goes even when we don’t like how they assign it. For decades, Congress has been slowly ceding its power to the president through a series of deliberate laws (like the National Emergencies Act) and vaguely-written legislation allowing the bureaucracy to fill in the blanks later.

Senator Mike Lee, who believes the president’s declaration is likely legal, put it best when he wrote, “Whether or not it should be legal is a different matter. Congress has been ceding far too much power to the exec. branch for decades. We should use this moment as an opportunity to start taking that power back.”

And they should start with repealing the National Emergencies Act.

The law has been used 60 times now, with the vast majority of those times involving nothing close to an emergency that needed to be immediately addressed; mostly sanctions that Congress could have easily voted on. There is nothing that requires immediate action by a President that isn’t already addressed by his role as Commander-in-Chief. 

Conservatives are concerned about a president with too much power, Democrats are upset by Trump’s action Friday. Now is the perfect time to repeal the National Emergencies Act. Trump’s order will stand, at least through the court challenges (and it’s anyone’s guess how that will go), but future declarations of emergencies will have to go through Congress, as they should. If voters don’t like what they do or don’t do, they can vote them out of office. But Congress needs to reassert itself and recapture its constitutional powers. 

The idea Democrats have been pushing that this declaration will set a precedent a Democrat President will use is not the reason to oppose these executive moves. Democrats don’t wait for precedent to impose their will. It’s best to remove the power not so they don’t abuse it, but so no one does. 

As the last administration and the current one showed, you won’t always like the assertion of amassed executive power. It’s best to restore it to where it belongs. The Founding Fathers didn’t place it in Congress by accident. An all-powerful executive may sound great when it’s your team with the power, but it won’t always be your team with the power. A despot is still a despot, even if it’s your despot.

Derek Hunter is a columnist at Townhall, podcast host, and author of “Outrage, INC.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood.” (The Kindle version is on sale for $1.99 for a limited time.) To combat how the political left manipulates unsuspecting Americans to the point that they’d believe their lies and act on them, you have to understand how liberals weaponized important institutions against the American people. And don’t forget to subscribe to his daily podcast, it’s informative, funny and it’s free!

Derek Hunter's Latest Book, Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood is available on Amazon