Trump’s Abuse of Power Shouldn’t be a Partisan Issue


Seth Courtad, Assistant Editor

On February 15th, President Trump declared a national emergency at our southern border, circumventing Congress’ right to determine how government money is allocated. Trump-Republicans likely won’t bat an eye. In fact, they’ll probably cheer. They’re getting their wall, so, who cares? Well, we all should, regardless of party affiliation.

Before addressing the issues with Trump’s national emergency, we need to establish what exactly a national emergency is. In short, national emergencies can be used by the president to access military funds and form quick solutions to immediate, pressing issues facing the country. In the past, national emergencies have been used to send aid during natural disasters and terrorist attacks, impose sanctions on countries committing human rights violations, and swiftly address threats to public health.
National emergencies are also generally non-partisan in nature, as emergency aid to disaster-stricken areas usually has the support of both parties. Additionally, most national emergencies are declared through executive orders, though the majority of executive orders are not national emergencies.

President Trump’s declaration breaks the norm regarding how he has used this immense power. The building of a border wall is neither an emergency measure nor non-partisan. Moreover, immigration is a problem the U.S. has long faced, not a disaster in need of immediate attention.

Despite this, when Congress denied Trump money for a border wall, Trump decided to build anyway. Essentially, Trump intends to use his emergency powers to override the will of Congress, causing a constitutional crisis and setting a dangerous precedent.
Though a few executive orders have attempted similar legislative goals, no president has ever used a national emergency in this way. The reason for this is simple: doing so could greatly expand the powers of the executive branch, reducing the effectiveness of the checks-and-balance system and allowing the president to implement broad change without Congressional approval — essentially, without input from the voice of the people.

Some have argued that Trump hasn’t set a new precedent because President Obama also circumvented Congress when he announced that the Department of Homeland Security would implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in 2012. Such arguments may appear fair, but don’t hold up upon closer inspection. In reality, immigration and executive power serve as the only common factors between DACA and the wall.

Obama did not declare a national emergency to implement DACA; he didn’t even use an executive order. Obama stated clearly that DACA functioned as a temporary delay since Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were moved to the U.S. at a very young age (aptly referred to as Dreamers).
DACA did not provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers; it only deferred the deportation of Dreamers until Congress figured something out.

As a result, DACA applicants had to meet strict, specific criteria to remain in the country. DACA had a definite, short-term goal which still relied on Congress, and the voice of the people, to make the ultimate decision.
In 2014, when Obama later tried using an executive order to expand DACA’s lifespan, the motion was rightfully struck down as it would have taken the decision away from Congress. DACA was expanded solely through executive orders; Obama never declared DACA a national emergency to aggressively bulldoze over Congress. Therefore, Obama did not set a precedent for Trump’s national emergency.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will block Trump’s actions, but, with a strong conservative majority on the bench, anything could happen. If SCOTUS doesn’t strike this down, future presidents could conceivably override congress on any issue.
Regardless of your opinion on Trump’s wall, his misuse of presidential power should not be a partisan issue. Decisions as momentous as border control should come down to Congress and the will of the people, not one person.
Republicans seemed aware of this constitutional danger five years ago when they lambasted DACA and Obama’s plans for immigration reform. They even seemed aware of the danger this year as many Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, initially cautioned the president not to declare a national emergency. But, shockingly, many Senate Republicans suddenly changed their mind and went along with Trump’s decision, ceding their constitutional rights in exchange for short-term political gain.

Again, the prevailing issue is not the partisan debate over immigration; it’s the constitutionality of Trump’s use of executive power. If Trump had gotten his wall through Congress, I wouldn’t approve of it, but I wouldn’t fight it either. I certainly wouldn’t write an article about it. But, Trump has decided to bypass a system designed to voice the will of the people, the legislative process. That’s the issue.

I know some will view my genuine concerns as nothing more than Liberal fear-mongering when, in fact, it’s Republicans who should be the most disturbed by the president’s twisting of their ideology. Conservatives have typically championed fiscal responsibility in government, condemned excessive uses of executive power, and valued strict interpretations of the constitution; Trump has ignored Congress’ budget, clearly abused executive power, and disregarded the intended function of the constitution’s three-branch system.

Despite this, Trump still has an ironclad grasp on the Republican party and enjoys their nearly unopposed support. Currently, it’s hard to imagine what it would take for Republicans to finally stand up to Trump’s consistent butchering of their historically core party values.