Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency

The Constitution states, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” Yet President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE has announced that he will dismiss this dictum and sign a national emergency to spend about $8 billion on a border wall that is opposed by Congress. He said, “We are going to be signing today and registering a national emergency and it is a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it is unacceptable.”

Nowhere in the Constitution is there a national emergency clause that lets the president spend money not allocated by Congress. Trump and his supporters argue that the National Emergencies Act of 1976 grants him this authority. But even Trump admitted his order will be challenged in the courts. Constitutional conservatives should be concerned by his move. Declaring a state of emergency where none exists to overcome the will of Congress is a direct threat to the separation of powers and rule of law.


While legal scholars can debate whether this is constitutional, there can be no dispute that the current situation at the southern border is not a national emergency. Border apprehensions are down 80 percent since the beginning of the century. More asylum seekers are voluntarily turning themselves in. Drugs are overwhelmingly coming through legal ports of entry. Net illegal immigration has been at zero for several years. Most new illegal immigrants arrive legally then overstay their visas. The wall is a divisive obsession. It is not sound public policy.

The declaration made by Trump is little more than an exercise to free himself from the political box canyon he has put himself in. It allows him to declare victory on a border wall fight that he actually lost. It prevents the wrath of the Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingFeenstra wins Iowa House race to fill Steve King's seat Democrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones MORE wing of the party. It also sets a dangerous precedent for declaring a national emergency when one does not exist in order to advance select causes not supported by the American public.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE intimated that a future Democratic president may declare a national emergency to address gun violence. A President Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE or a President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized MORE could point to the decision of Trump to justify a national emergency to address climate change or income inequality. The decision made by former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE in 2013 to nuke the 60 vote supermajority needed for judicial appointments is instructive. Republicans used that precedent to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process The magnificent moderation of Susan Collins MORE, both of whom almost surely would not have received the 60 votes that are needed otherwise.

The decision made by Trump to declare a national emergency to secure border wall funding may similarly backfire on Republicans. Courageous Republicans should publicly oppose this decision. They should confront the president on his immigration policy, which is repelling millennials, suburbanites, and independents ahead of the next election. Rather than invoking an emergency, Republicans should explore new ways to bring some of these economic migrants in legally on work visas. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “rather than talking about putting up a fence,” we must “make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit.”

The Labor Department announced this week that there are more than seven million unfilled jobs in the United States. That is 800,000 more positions than the number of Americans currently unemployed. Across the country, businesses are being forced to run below capacity because they cannot find workers. This artificially reduces economic growth and standards of living. The Labor Department also estimates that over the next decade alone, we will need more than one million home care aids.

Making it easier for economic migrants to pursue the American dream in the tradition of our forefathers would boost our growth and improve the situation at the southern border because our officials would be able to focus on national security threats rather than those seeking work. There are much better solutions to the illegal immigration problem. Traditional Republicans are the ones to offer them. Trumpian Republicans with their unconstitutional, grandstanding, and ineffective border policies are not.

Jordan Bruneau is a policy analyst at the Becoming American Initiative.