Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Government By National Emergency Is Unethical

Over the past week, much has been written about the legalities of President Trump’s national emergency. The debate has focused on whether the president has the right to divert money that has already been appropriated by Congress and use it for his pet projects when legislators refuse to fund his requests. As the debate rages, much of the country seems so blinded by the legal forest that they don’t see the trees right in front of them.

There are two questions regarding the diversion of funds to subvert congressional intent with regard to the wall. The first question, the obvious one, is whether it is legal for President Trump to move money authorized by Congress from one account to another. A question that is perhaps more important is whether the president should divert the money, even if it is legal.

The question of legality is far from settled, but the letter of the law seems to contradict Trump’s purposes, at least with regard to the military construction funds where much of the $8 billion for the wall is slated to be taken. There is also the constitutionalist view that Congress is not permitted under the Constitution to delegate its legislative duties to the president. Nevertheless, right now, I’d like to look past the question of legality, which is unlikely to be settled before Trump leaves office in 2020, and focus on the ethical question at hand.

When President Trump announced his declaration of emergency last week, he said, “I didn’t need to do this.” That’s a true statement.

As I’ve pointed out before, there is no national security crisis from illegal immigration. Illegal border crossings are near a 50-year low and, despite a few high-profile cases, the evidence is that on average immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit fewer violent crimes than native-born Americans. The government’s own data show that the 90 percent of drug shipments come through ports of entry rather than across the unfenced borderlands. The Trump Administration has not produced any firm evidence of terrorists crossing the border illegally and the statistics that the Administration has cited show that more suspected terrorists were apprehended crossing from Canada than Mexico.

Isn’t it unethical to declare a national emergency when there isn’t one just because you believe it would provide you with a loophole to achieve your policy goal? Republicans would certainly answer in the affirmative if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had used the tactic.

So why did he do it?

There seem to be two answers to that question. The first is that Trump’s own base was beginning to fracture after the president’s miscalculation on the government shutdown. Trump lost leverage and was handed an ignominious defeat with the compromise funding bill. The president had no choice but to sign the bill, but his base was still angry at the fact that he caved. Trump needed a gesture to show the base that he was still a fighter.

The second reason was simply to “own the libs.” In the absence of great legislative successes, the Republican raison d’etre has become triggering the left for the sake of making Democrat heads explode. Never mind that owning the libs makes it more difficult to bridge the partisan divide and less likely that Republicans can entice Democrats to cross the aisle to pass good legislation for the betterment of the country, these days it’s all about feeding red meat to the base and retweeting the latest Twitter takedown.

While President Trump’s emergency declaration was a move that was destined to be popular with the base, it does lasting damage to what is left of Mr. Trump’s credibility. By signing a spending bill that he had no intention of abiding by, the president failed to act in good faith. In addition to ensuring that no congressional Democrats will ever trust President Trump again, the president’s actions undercut the efforts of serious Republicans to achieve workable compromises as well. Whether Republican negotiators were aware of the White House’s subterfuge or not, Democrats will assume that they were complicit and the incident will have a chilling effect on future negotiations. It is likely that no more significant legislation will come through Congress until after the 2020 elections, almost two years away.

Further, it was clearly not the intent of the Framers that the president should abuse his emergency authority to subvert the will of the people and their elected representatives in Congress. Trump supporters will answer that Donald Trump won the election. That’s true, but he did so while losing the popular vote. That hardly represents a clear mandate from the people to build the wall or do anything else except not be Hillary. At any rate, winning an election does not entitle a new president to a blank check.

This argument also conveniently forgets that Republicans lost the most recent election. The drubbing that the party received in the House during the 2018 midterms was due in large part to the Trump Administration’s heavy-handed immigration policies. Mr. Trump’s final argument prior to the 2018 elections was fearmongering about migrant caravans. Voters rejected this line of appeal. Notably, many of the seats lost by Republicans last year were in states on or near the southern border.

Since the 2010 Tea Party wave, Republicans have preached the line that the House of Representatives holds the purse strings of government. It took just over a month of Democratic control of the House to have President Trump’s GOP decide that House appropriations were superfluous to the business of spending money on something that they wanted. The Republican attempt to free themselves from constitutional restrictions when they held Democrats to those same limitations is unethical on its face. Another word that applies is “hypocritical.”

The precedent that Trump is trying to set here is arguably much more damaging to the country than anything that the Democrats are proposing. Seventy percent tax rates can be lowered and the Green New Deal could be repealed, but presidential power grabs are forever.

A final defense offered by some Republicans is that the Democrats would do the same thing if they had the chance. This is a perverted version of the Golden Rule that could be summed as, “Do unto others before they get the chance to do unto you.” This argument has nothing to do with the Constitution or the rule of law or ethics. This is the law of the jungle where it’s kill or be killed. The problem with this logic is that Democrats didn’t take the chance when they had it.

The strategy of fomenting a national emergency to advance a policy goal is closer to the philosophy of Rahm Emanuel, who never let a crisis go to waste but who also never faked one, than to the Founding Fathers. If the best that Republicans can offer is an unconstitutional and unethical course of action, then the Grand Old Party can no longer call itself a party of law and order or respect for the Constitution. If Republicans insist on attempting to push through funding for the wall based on President Trump’s emergency order then they are just as lawless and lacking in character as the Democrats.

In a case of destroying the village to save it, the GOP has become what it hates, a party that is willing to twist the meaning of the law and push the boundaries of propriety to further its aims. As Walt Kelly wrote in the classic comic strip, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

16 States Sue Over Trump’s Emergency Declaration

Sixteen states have filed a lawsuit to stop President Trump’s attempt to use an emergency declaration to reprogram federal money to fund his border wall project. The group of states joining the lawsuit includes two states located on the Mexico border along with another three states near the southwestern border.

The complaint was filed in California’s Northern District by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accuses Trump of “flagrant disregard for the separation of powers” by redirecting money appropriated for the states to the wall construction after Congress rejected the president’s request. In addition to California, the lawsuit includes Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. The states all have Democrat attorneys general and all but one have Democrat governors.

The lawsuit says, “By the President’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary.” In his speech announcing the emergency declaration, Trump said, “I could have done the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this.” The lawsuit also notes that the federal government’s own data show there “is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall.”

The lawsuit also claims that the states would be harmed by the reprogramming of money that Congress appropriated for law enforcement and anti-drug efforts. In the case of California and New Mexico, the complaint alleges that the wall construction would cause “irreparable environmental damage.” These claims give the states standing to bring suit against the plan.

The president intends to reprogram $8 billion in federal funds using the emergency declaration. Congress appropriated $1.375 billion in the Homeland Security funding bill and the president plans to use $600 million from Treasury Department drug forfeiture funds, $2.5 billion from a Department of Defense counter-narcotic fund, and $3.6 billion from the military construction budget.

While Donald Trump is not the first president to declare an emergency, he is the first to do so specifically because Congress refused his request to appropriate money. When asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday if he could point to a single case “where the president asked Congress for money, Congress refused to give him that money, and the president then evokes national emergency powers to get the money?” Miller could not cite a single example.

Wallace also pointed out that the majority of drugs entering the country come through ports of entry, not unfenced portions of the border. Miller agreed, “Which is the reason why we also ask for additional resources at the ports of entry.”

“But this is what you got,” Wallace answered, noting correctly that the funding agreement passed earlier this month included $615 million for new equipment at ports of entry.

Writing for National Review, David French pointed out that the Trump Administration is forced to twist the law in order to use the military construction money for the border wall. The stipulations for reprogramming this money in an emergency are that the crisis “requires use of the armed forces” and that the construction is “necessary to support such use of the armed forces.” The border situation, a civilian law enforcement problem, fails the test on both counts. Under the Posse Comitatus Act, the military is prohibited from engaging in domestic law enforcement.

The lawsuit against President Trump recalls a similar lawsuit brought against Barack Obama by House Republicans. Under John Boehner, the GOP sued Obama for spending money on Obamacare subsidies without the money having been appropriated by the House. Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled against President Obama’s executive overreach in 2016, saying, “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”

The recent bipartisan spending bill limited the construction of new border fencing to specific areas. It is not clear if the Trump Administration will attempt to use the national emergency to construct fencing in areas that were not authorized by Congress.

The lawsuit by the states is likely to be only the first in a series of legal attempts to rein in the Trump Administration’s use of emergency authority to bypass a stalemated Congress. It is possible that House Democrats may launch a lawsuit similar to the Republican effort against Obama to protect the House of Representatives’ constitutional role as the keeper of the government purse.

As the legal battle stretches into the election year, the blowback is likely to damage Republican efforts in Congress as well as President Trump’s re-election campaign. Americans are split on the border wall with about 30 percent in favor, but public opinion is strongly against the national emergency. Polls consistently show that two-thirds of voters oppose the use of a national emergency to fund the wall. A long, drawn out, unpopular legal fight for an unpopular project is not a good way to start an election cycle.

Worse is the fact that the party that claims to represent constitutionalists is twisting the law to enact a policy against both the rule of law and the will of the people. The framers did not intend for presidents to find ways to subvert Congress when legislators failed to act. They did intend for elected officials to be responsive to the voters. The fact that President Trump was elected 2016 does not grant him carte blanche.

President Trump made his case for a border wall to the American people in both 2016 and 2018 and failed to receive a mandate in either election. The Democrats hold the House in no small part because voters chose to rebuke the Trump Administration for its hardline immigration policies. If Mr. Trump refuses to accept that rebuke, it is likely that voters will deliver another in 2020.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, February 18, 2019

Finland’s Universal Basic Income Yields Disappointing Returns

In what must be one of the most unsurprising stories of the day, researchers said that Finland’s trial universal basic income program did not lead to higher employment. Although the program did not lead more people to productive work than traditional social entitlements, participants did report that they were happier and less stressed.

In recent years, the concept of universal basic income (UBI) has become popular among some economists as an alternative to means-tested welfare programs and social safety nets. The idea is that a country would guarantee every citizen a minimum income level without meeting qualifying factors such as age, income, or dependents.

In theory, this strategy would encourage upward mobility and decrease self-defeating behaviors that are often associated with government entitlement programs. For instance, some entitlement programs have income caps that discourage recipients from getting jobs. Programs that are based around payments to support dependent children encourage recipients to have more out-of-wedlock children. By eliminating these requirements, it was hoped that the UBI would encourage people to make good decisions and improve their lives. Because the UBI also has no time limit, proponents argued that it would help people survive while they retrained for new jobs in industries that were not affected by automation.

Although first proposed in 1516 by Sir Thomas More, the UBI faced its first real test in Finland. Under a pilot program that ran from January 2017 through December 2018, the Finnish government gave 2,000 unemployed Finns a flat monthly payment of 560 Euros ($634) through the Social Insurance Institution (Kela). The trial was watched with interest by economists around the world and now that the results are in, they are disappointing. Per the BBC, Miska Simanainen, one of the Kela researchers behind the Finnish study, said that participants in the study were no more likely to find work than those in a control group that was given traditional unemployment benefits.

If this result was not surprising, neither is the fact that participants who received the free money with no strings attached liked the program because it made their lives less stressful. Tuomas, an out-of-work newspaper editor, said, “I am still without a job. I can't say that the basic income has changed a lot in my life. Okay, psychologically yes, but financially - not so much.”

Mr. Simanainen stopped short of calling the experiment a failure, saying, “This is not a failure or success - it is a fact, and [gives us] new information that we did not have before this experiment.”

It isn’t clear whether the UBI payments would save Finnish taxpayers money over the cost of traditional entitlement programs. It is possible that unconditional payments could reduce the bureaucracy associated with registering and following up with recipients of entitlement programs.

It does appear, however, that UBI, like other government programs, removes the incentive of recipients to find work. By funding a minimal income level that makes unemployed Finns more comfortable in their unemployment, the government makes it easier for them to remain unemployed.

UBI payments also promote a culture of getting paid for doing nothing. As Ulrich Spiesshofera Finnish business executive, told the Financial Times prior to the trial in 2016, “economic rewards should be based on actually creating economic value.” UBI payments are merely one more way of transferring wealth from those Finns who work to those who do not.

It is not clear what the next step is for UBI advocates. There are smaller scale trials being conducted in a Kenyan village and the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands. However, these programs are on a smaller scale than the Finnish study and the results will not be known for several years. The Kenyan study lasts until 2028. A Swiss referendum on UBI in 2016 was opposed by 77 percent of voters.

In the United States, a Gallup poll conducted in 2018 found that 48 percent of Americans support the idea of a universal basic income. Support was strongest among Democrats (65 percent) and 18-35-year-olds (54 percent). The cost of providing all working-age Americans with a $10,000 salary would be more than $3 trillion annually.

Unless and until more encouraging results come out of future trials, it will be difficult for UBI advocates to persuade policymakers and voters that the universal basic income is an idea whose time has come. That is unlikely to stop them from trying, however.

Originally published on The Resurgent

She’s Ba-ack! Ruth Bader Ginsburg Returns to Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is slated to return to work tomorrow. Ginsburg has been absent from Court functions since early December when she underwent surgery to remove cancerous masses from one of her lungs.

Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, broke three ribs in a fall last November. Her cancer was found as a result of tests after treatment for the broken ribs. She was previously treated for colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009. She also received a stent to improve blood flow in her right coronary artery in 2014.

Ginsburg has become the focus of much angst from both the left and the right. After the appointments of Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Court by President Trump, liberals rallied around Ginsburg in hopes that the 85-year-old justice would not be forced to resign before 2020. A 2018 movie even detailed Ginsburg’s early career as an attorney who worked against gender discrimination.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Ginsburg’s illness and subsequent absence have fueled speculation and conspiracy theories. When she did not make public appearances for several weeks, conspiracists on the right began to claim that Ginsburg was actually dead, but that her death was being kept secret to deny Donald Trump a third Supreme Court appointment.  

As Ginsburg returns to work, the Court has an easy week. The justices will hear only two 60-minute arguments. On Tuesday, the Court will hear Return Mail Inc. v. USPS, a case that asks whether government agencies can challenge private patents, and Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology LLC, a trademark licensing case.

As a conservative and a constitutionalist, I often find myself at odds with Justice Ginsburg’s opinions on Supreme Court cases. Nevertheless, as a fellow human who abhors cancer, I wish her good health. While I would not be unhappy to see Justice Ginsburg retire, I cannot find it in myself to participate in the tinfoil hat crowd’s deathwatch.  

Originally pubished on The Resurgent

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Conservative College Crusader On Moderate Democrats Versus Identity Politics

Charles Copeland is the former chairman of Delaware Republican Party and minority leader in the Delaware State Senate. He currently heads the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization dedicated to bringing conservative thought to college campuses. The Resurgent caught up with Mr. Copeland this week to talk about Amy Klobuchar’s candidacy and whether a moderate Democrat could win against Donald Trump in 2020.

“From an intellectual perspective,” Copeland says, “I don’t think that the president really spent a lot of time during his life worried about conservative or even libertarian philosophy. I think he worried about what price the union cement contractor was giving him for whatever his next project was. He was somewhat of an unwritten page and I know a lot of people that were very, very worried, but I would submit that, from a policy perspective, what he’s implemented since being in office has been very conservative policy.”

Copeland doesn’t consider himself a Trump critic, saying, “I would not consider myself a Never Trumper nor would I consider myself an Always Trumper. On my board at ISI, I have both.”

“As a friend of mine once described it, it’s a bit like having a dull limo driver,” he adds. “He’s getting you where you want to go, but you just want to put the glass up.”

Despite the fact that Copeland seems pleased with much of the Trump Administration, he acknowledges that the president is in trouble with moderate voters. The Republican defeats in the House in the 2018 midterms were largely due to a loss of moderate voters in the suburbs.

“Where I live, it’s a suburb of Philadelphia, even though we’re in Delaware and that was one of the areas where Republicans got crushed in the 2018 elections,” he says. “Maybe it wasn’t a wave election in other places, but, in my area, it was a wave election and I consider this to be a fairly moderate area.”

“I think that a lot of moderates said, ‘We want somebody to put a brake on what is going on or, perhaps, on the president directly,” Copeland continues, adding, “I’m not expressing my own opinion, I’m just trying to call balls and strikes.”

“If you think back to the 2016 election,” he adds, “there were about 60,000 people in three states that called the election. If 11,000 people in a Pittsburgh suburb and 11,000 people in a Milwaukee suburb and 11,000 people in a Detroit suburb changed their votes, you change the outcome. Add to that the fact that the president’s approval rating has never in his entire administration broken 50 percent and normally sits around 40 percent. Meanwhile, there are some Never Trampers out there, 43 percent or so, who say they want to impeach the guy. He starts a little behind in a generic situation.”

“I think that if a moderate Democrat made it through their primary system, it would be a much more difficult race” for President Trump, he continues but adds that the Democrat primary system is stacked against moderates.

Copeland says that the large number of Democratic candidates will make it very difficult for any one of them to win a majority of delegates. If five or six prominent candidates such as Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Beta O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar each win about 15-20 percent of the delegates, it would conceivably be possible for a moderate like Klobuchar to emerge as a consensus candidate.

“From a structural perspective,” he adds, “they’ve got a real hard time getting a candidate who actually has crossover appeal, but, if they did, I think that would be a very, very challenging environment for the current administration.”

Copeland adds that he believes that President Trump will shift gears over the next two years to make himself more amenable to moderates, especially when compared with the radical left-wing Democratic candidates, and notes that the State of the Union may have been the beginning of such a shift in tone.

“I didn’t think the speech was huge as the speech goes,” he says, “but compared to how he’s framed by the media, he came across as a guy that likes people” such as immigrants, war heroes, childhood cancer victims, and Jews, contrary to allegations of anti-Semitism. “It’s kind of hard to frame the guy as a xenophobic hater if he stands in front of people and says, ‘Look at all the people I like.’’’

“I think he’s starting to change tacks,” Copeland says, but adds, “How long that stays, who knows?”

Indeed, a few days later, the kinder, gentler Trump fell by the wayside as the president proclaimed a national emergency in an attempt to bypass the congressional refusal to appropriate money for his signature border barrier.

When asked about the possibility that Joe Biden might enter the race, Copeland jokes, “Joe Biden lives about a mile from where I’m standing right now. Of course, the state is small.”

“I’ve known Joe for a long, long time and Joe loves the sharp elbows of politics,” he says. “If you could go and sit with God and make the perfect human for politics, it would look something like Joe Biden from a skill set. From a policy perspective, I disagree with him on almost everything, but he loves politics and is skilled at it.”

“The problem that he’s got on the Democrat side is he’s an old white guy,” he continues. “How do the Democrats that are dominated by identity politics today” nominate “an old white guy?”

“He’s hugely skilled, but I think that, at the end of the day, it’s going to be very tough to pull that off,” Copeland muses. “But, as I said, if you got to the convention and everybody had 15 percent, could he be somebody that they rallied around because he would be a holding cell for the future? Could be. That’s something that I think, that if I’m Amy Klobuchar, I would be thinking about.”

Copeland takes a swipe at Corey Booker and the identity politics of the Democratic Party, saying, “Corey Booker is now aiming to be the first vegan guy who shaves his head and it’s just an absurdity. I don’t understand the allure to somebody saying that I’m going to be the first vegan president. We’ve got serious issues to face in this country and whether you like McDonald’s hamburgers is not one of them.”

There are deep divisions between even moderate Democrats and conservative Republican voters. Two issues where the differences are most apparent are abortion and immigration. Of the two, Copeland believes that immigration would be the easier gap to bridge.

“The majority of Americans, and I think it’s a good-sized majority, maybe 60-65 percent, want some sort of immigration reform that takes people that are in the United States and gives them legal status or a pathway to legal citizenship,” he says. “They don’t want to uproot families and nobody wants to see the ICE agents coming into a house, pulling out mom and dad and leaving a crying kid standing there as their parents are taken away.”

“I think the majority of Americans want to see that, but they also want to see border security,” he says, adding that “the mainstream media has vilified border security in such a way that” many people don’t want to admit supporting a wall but see the value in adding security to “control the border and bring those people who we believe will be valuable citizens into the country and keep out the criminal element and MS-13.”

Copeland sees the possibility that a split government after the 2020 elections might act on immigration reform. Even if President Trump is re-elected, the two parties might find a middle ground on the issue. Copeland notes that several pieces of landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed with strong Republican support and signed by President Johnson, “a racist cad,” and welfare reform under Bill Clinton, were passed with government control split between the two parties rather than when one party controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency.

“Abortion is a little different, “he says, “because the Supreme Court with Roe v. Wade jumped into the middle of it and put it on ice. Until that’s dealt with, I don’t believe that either side has any interest in doing anything except using it as a club.”

Even though Copeland is a fan of President Trump’s policy, he does acknowledge that the president’s behavior has made him somewhat unpopular among the college students that ISI works with. “I think that President Trump’s problems with aggressiveness in his tweets and in name-calling, some of those things are manifest. In kindergarten, we all learned how to be polite and hold doors for other people and speak in our inside voices and I do think that rubs a lot of people the wrong way,” he admits.

But that does not mean all is lost. He goes on, “I think that there is a large portion of the student body who like what the president has done because they have job opportunities when they graduate. They like what the president has done because they look around the world and it is a safer place.”

Copeland points out that 18 percent of college humanities professors are Marxists compared to only five percent who are conservative. “And Marxism is a political theory that has never worked. It’s 0-for-40…. Conservative policies that have worked almost every time and every place they’ve been tried, maybe they’re 37-and-three, and yet it is the minority opinion on campus.”

Many conservatives and moderates on campus are afraid to speak up because of the leftist practices of public shaming and doxing their opponents, posting personal contact information, including phone numbers and home addresses publicly. Conservatives and Trump supporters “are afraid to say anything because they don’t know if the student next to them is a rabid left-winger who is going to start shrieking at them like that woman did to Jeff Flake in the elevator. People don’t want that kind of stuff, they just want to go about their life and live their life the way they want and to go to their classes and believe in free markets and opportunity and limited government and property rights.”

ISI’s mission is help educate students in these conservative, small government principles. Copeland says that ISI is different from some organizations that preach the simplistic message that, “socialism is terrible and capitalism is great.”

“We talk about the fundamentals and let students make their own decision. We’ve had debates in which we’ve had open borders and closed borders people debate one another” with debaters from the libertarian Cato Institute and the conservative Heritage Foundation, Copeland says. “Even in debates like that, we’ll have protesters because they don’t want to have an opinion other than their own talked about. I think that’s largely because they’re afraid that their own opinion lacks any deep intellectual underpinnings. They’ve just got an emotion.”

“I think that there is a vocal minority on campus that is led by an increasingly strident faculty that is driving this social justice, identity politics debate,” Copeland says, “Many students look at it and go, ‘Well, I’m just going to keep my head down and drive forward and get out.’ And that’s what they do. And it’s a shame.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, February 15, 2019

Abuse Of Presidential Power Is The National Emergency

President Trump’s planned declaration of a national emergency on the southern border today is exactly the sort of thing that prompted many conservatives to oppose his presidency. In declaring a national emergency based on Congress’s failure to take action to the president’s liking, Trump sets a horrible precedent that will probably fail to get the wall built and will certainly come back to haunt Republicans.

To begin with, there is no national security emergency.  Illegal border crossings are near a 50-year low even though the arrests of families at the border have increased in recent months. Contrary to Trump Administration claims, there is also no wave of violent crime associated with immigrants, either legal or illegal. Statistically speaking, border counties are some of the safest counties in the country.

If illegal immigration didn’t constitute a national security emergency when the number of illegal border crossings was five times the number that we have today and it wasn’t an emergency in the wake of the September 11 attacks, it is difficult to see how it is an emergency today at much lower levels after 18 years in which no illegal immigrant has been connected to a terrorist attack and more than six times as many suspected terrorists were caught crossing the Canadian border than entering from Mexico.

In fact, illegal immigration wasn’t considered a national emergency for the first two years of President Trump’s presidency. In January 2018, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered $25 billion for a border barrier, much more than Trump hopes to get from his emergency declaration, but President Trump didn’t accept the deal. If illegal immigration was a national emergency all along, then why didn’t Trump jump at Schumer’s deal? For that matter, why didn’t Trump declare a national emergency two months ago prior to the government shutdown? What changed?

The answer is that Trump was beaten by the Democrats and needs to shore up his base. The crisis is not that illegals are threatening the security of the nation, but that Trump’s poor legislative abilities are threatening his approval rating among Republicans.

Unfortunately, Trump’s emergency declaration is an ill-conceived plan that is borne of desperation and is certain to blow up in his face. As with the shutdown, the president is attempting to use an unpopular strategy to enact an unpopular policy. By two-to-one margins, voters oppose an emergency declaration. With the beginning of the 2020 primary season only a year away, the move may spark enough division among Republicans to encourage a primary challenge against Trump. It may also kill Trump’s chances of winning enough moderates and independents to secure a second term.

The move is also unlikely to result in construction of the wall. The president isn’t allowed to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress when legislators choose not to act on longstanding problems. Trump’s decree will be challenged in court and is likely to be overturned.

The worst part of the national emergency declaration is the precedent that it sets. President Trump got his ideas on the use of executive powers from Barack Obama but Trump is pushing the envelope of the imperial presidency even further. The next Democrat is also likely to push the boundaries even more and dare Congress to stop him.

There are many “national emergencies” that Democrats could choose to act upon. They could use executive powers to tackle climate change, assault weapons, the national debt, racism, and who knows what. If the guiding principle is not the Constitution but the ability to rhetorically turn a problem into a crisis, the opportunities for executive action are limited only by Democratic imaginations.

As with President Obama, Donald Trump’s abuses of his executive authority are more of a crisis than the problems that he purports to address. It is past time for Congress to rein in the presidency and put limits on the power of the chief executive to act unilaterally. If Congress doesn’t limit President’s Trump’s abuses of power, it will be up to the voters to do so.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Republicans Not Happy With Border Deal But Have Few Options

Congressional negotiators announced a tentative agreement in the talks to fund the government to prevent another shutdown last night. The agreement reportedly reduces the amount of funding for President Trump’s pet wall project, which leaves open the possibility that the president will refuse to sign off on the agreement. Immigration hardliners have already begun to attack the deal.

The agreement reportedly includes no money for a wall, but $1.375 billion for enhancements such as steel slats for existing barriers and funding for 55 miles of new barriers, per NBC News. The new fencing would be subject to geographical restrictions on its placement. Republicans would also get $1.7 billion for other border security projects such as new technology for ports of entry, additional customs officers, humanitarian aid, and funding for more than 40,000 new beds in immigrant detention facilities. Democrats reportedly gave up their demand for a cap on the number of beds that can be used for detaining illegal immigrants.

Sean Hannity immediately attacked the agreement, calling it a “garbage compromise.”

“By the way, on this new so-called compromise,” Hannity said. “I’m getting details. $1.3 billion? That’s not even a wall, a barrier… We will get back into this tomorrow. Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain—look at this crowd, look at the country.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, tweeted that Congress had created “a bad deal on immigration.”

Few other prominent Republicans have spoken out publicly on the deal so far.

Word of the deal came just as President Trump was about to take the stage at a rally in El Paso. The president said that he was aware of the deal but not the details.

"I could have stayed out there and listened or I could have come out there to the people of El Paso in Texas. I chose you," Trump said. "Maybe progress has been made, maybe not."

President Trump has not commented publicly on the deal, but the $1.3 billion currently being offered by Democrats is less than the $1.6 billion that was on the table in December prior to the shutdown. Just over a year ago, in January 2018, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had offered $25 billion for the wall. That was before the blue wave in the midterm elections gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives.

If the president sticks to his previous position, he may well reject the current offer and force another government shutdown. It isn’t clear how another shutdown would allow Republicans to increase funding for the wall. Democrats held firm for 35 days beginning in December. President Trump relented and reopened the government when his approval began to fall precipitously in January.

Another possible option is for the president to accept the deal and then proceed with his idea of using executive actions to fund the wall. CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson tweeted this morning that the White House is seriously considering this strategy.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that the president can shift money from various accounts into a fund to pay for the wall. Moving money from these accounts would not require congressional approval or a declaration of emergency, Mulvaney said.

“There are certain sums of money that are available to the president, to any president,” Mulvaney said. “So, you comb through the law at the president's request ... And there's pots of money where presidents, all presidents, have access to without a national emergency.”

If President Trump and Republicans reject the current compromise deal, it isn’t clear what the path forward would be. Executive actions to fund the wall, whether with or without an emergency declaration, would almost certainly face legal challenges that could delay construction until after President Trump’s term is over.

With Nancy Pelosi now in charge of the House of Representatives and public opinion divided on the wall, it is unlikely that Congress will be willing to allocate more funds. If he truly wanted a wall, the president’s best opportunity was last year, but that chance is gone forever. Republicans are now forced to choose between a bad deal or no deal at all.

Originally published on The Resurgent