The Emergency is Trump

Trump’s “national emergency” is a fake emergency, not for national security, but to usurp power that belongs to Congress.

The story so far

This past January, Trump gave an unscheduled televised address in which he claimed that there was a “humanitarian crisis” at the border, other than the one ICE and CBP have created by arresting people, throttling the asylum system, destroying survival supplies, and separating families.

Trump painted immigrants as a violent threat and a drain on public resources, rather than people who need care and want to join our country, and pointed to the specters he conjured up as justifications for his demand for a “barrier” along our southern border (and blamed “Democrats” for it being a “barrier” rather than the wall he’d falsely promised Mexico would pay for).

Trump’s demand for a “barrier” is the singular factor behind the shutdown that lasted from December 2018 into January of this year. Trump had agreed to sign a funding bill but wimped out because right-wing media commentators weren’t happy about it. Senator McConnell, ceding Congress’s power of the purse to the executive, refused to allow a funding bill to be voted on by the Senate unless Trump agreed to sign it.

Eventually, after a government shutdown that lasted two pay cycles during which nearly a million federal employees and more than a million temporary and contract workers were either furloughed or required to work unpaid, Trump agreed to sign a three-week continuing resolution, reopening the government and keeping it running for that time.

The continuing resolution ended Friday, February 15.

In the week prior to that deadline, members of Congress negotiated a new appropriations bill. Rather than a continuing resolution, this bill appropriated $1.375 billion for 55 miles of “border fencing”—a reduction from the $1.6 billion for 65 miles that Mr. “Art of the Deal” walked away from back in December.

We don’t like this compromise because it doesn’t take away DHS’s power to “reprogram” funds to ICE from other DHS agencies like FEMA, but Congress passed it anyway, and Trump signed it…

…and declared a “national emergency” to bypass Congress to build his wall.

What national emergency?

In a “national emergency,” the president has certain expanded powers delegated by Congress, in order to respond to an emergency quicker than Congress can act.

But, just like how you can’t call 911 because the store is out of milk, Trump can’t make up a “national emergency” to get what he wants.

And there isn’t an emergency. Contrary to Trump’s racist fear-mongering:

Trump wants you to imagine, basically, a zombie apocalypse. A horde of immigrants massing toward our southern border and coming to… eat your brains! Or take your jobs! Or something!

These are lies.

Racist, fearmongering, tyrannical lies.

There was no emergency three months ago (when ~~the Caravan~~ was coming), there was no emergency two months ago when the shutdown started (apart from the shutdown itself), there was no emergency a month ago when the shutdown ended, and there is no emergency now.

Trump wants to build a wall. The Republicans know his followers want him to build a wall, so they support the wall to appease their voters, but at the same time they don’t want the responsibility for all of the environmental harms that the wall would cause, and the seizures of Americans’ private property that the project would require.

That's why Republicans in Congress such as Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell egged Trump on toward a declaration of a “national emergency.” If he builds the wall without them, they’re not responsible for it.

They’re not responsible at all.

Congress alone bears the power of the purse. Congress alone bears the responsibility to fund projects that will benefit the country, not waste money on seizing Americans’ property for vanity projects.

And the Republicans in Congress? McConnell lets Trump decide what bills the Senate will vote on. McConnell and Graham and other Republicans in Congress want to let Trump wield dangerous emergency powers so he can build his vanity project.

And yet the only “power grab” they’re worried about is people voting.

The only emergency is Trump

This is nothing less than a seizure of power that does not belong to the president, for a vanity project and a monument to racist fear-mongering.

To undertake this project in this way, he would need to:

All of this because Congress rightly will not spend the government’s money on a vanity project.

What Trump does, Congress can undo

Congress can put the kibosh on a declaration of a fake emergency. And we demand that they do so.

If we muster supermajorities in both the House and Senate, then there’s nothing Trump can do about it—his fake emergency ends, because it was power Congress gave the president and it is power Congress can take back.

But, if Congress does not pass the resolution with dual supermajorities, then Trump can veto it.

So we will need to press hard on our members of Congress. Here in San Francisco, that will be a light lift, as our Democratic members are rightly horrified by Trump’s attempt to spend money and use powers that do not belong to him. Folks in other districts may have a harder time; the hardest being constituents of such vocal supporters of this move as Graham and McConnell. If you have friends or family who live in other districts, you can contact them and ask them to call their members of Congress.

But, regardless who your representatives are or what party they belong to, they should all be reminded that Trump must not be allowed to use a fake emergency to bypass Congress.

Appropriations are Congress’s power, not Trump’s. And ultimately, Congress’s power is ours.

Use your power. Call your members of Congress and tell them to end Trump’s fake emergency.

Further reading

Deep DiveLauren Carpenter