21 Billion Reasons
Published February 15, 2019 / Updated August 7, 2020

21 Billion Reasons

Trump Declares An Imaginary Emergency

by Chris Thomas

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Republicans should think long and hard about letting Trump use emergency funds to build his wall

$21 Billion would almost buy two of these. Photo by Michael Afonso on Unsplash

Earlier today President Trump announced that he will declare a “national emergency” in order to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Of course, by every rational measure there is no crisis on the U.S. borders. Emergencies are not, by their nature, things that are up for debate. When Puerto Rico lost power for nearly a year and thousands of people died, that was an emergency. When wildfires incinerated Paradise, California, that was an emergency.

Generally, if there’s a real emergency, the President of the United States won’t put off declaring it to finish a Rose Garden press conference.

So the order is signed. And I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office. And we will have a national emergency — Donald J. Trump

The people crossing the US southern border are not an emergency, but the President of the United States seems eager to classify them as such in order to fund his wall by raiding a nearly $21,000,000,000 slush-fund the Pentagon apparently maintains.

This would be an excellent time to point out that the people in Flint, Michigan still don’t have lead-free water. It would be a great moment to note that military families are living in homes infested with rodents and black mold.

But this article is not about those things; it’s about precedent.

Because if Trump raids the Pentagon’s “unobligated military construction funds” to pay for a “crisis” that’s essentially the status-quo over the past two decades, he and the GOP are effectively giving every future President the power to do the same.

Military budgets are hard to vote against. After all, no one in Congress wants to be accused of “not supporting the troops.” If military funds are up for grabs for whatever pet project the President decides suddenly constitutes a “crisis,” those funds are going to become a lot harder for the Pentagon to come by.

Sure, it might take a couple rounds before it happens, but even the most hawkish Republican senators are going to get sick of voting to fund Pentagon operations only to see that money seized and disbursed by a Democratic president to address the “crisis” situation facing… take your pick: student debt? Women who have to travel for an abortion? Climate change?

Presidential powers don’t die with an administration. They’re passed to the next administration and the next and the next. If Republican Senators and Representatives stand by and allow President Trump to build his wall with emergency funds, they are giving up the power of the purse granted to Congress in the Constitution and exalted by Madison himself in Federalist 58 as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

But what the hell does James Madison, father of the Constitution and 4th President of the United States know? Mr. Trump wants his big, beautiful wall.

Tell Congress What You Think

While only Trump can decide to invoke emergency powers, the rest of this is up to Congress. You can write to Congress or the President about this or any other topic by sending the word Resist to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or as a Twitter direct message. If none of those work for you, Resistbot also supports old fashioned SMS: text RESIST to 50409 to get started. It takes 2 minutes to defend democracy.

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