Even despite signing a compromise deal from Congress which funds a portion of his border wall priority, President Donald Trump has decided to go nuclear. In addition to what Congress has approved, the President announced he will declare a national emergency, using his executive powers to redirect billions of additional dollars to building a border wall and enhancing national security.
Many conservatives and Republicans are cheering this move. They may come to regret it.
The problem, when you use the nuclear option, is that our politics are cyclical. Eventually the other side gets power, and they can use the nuclear option too.
Imagine this scenario:
Beto O’Rourke or Elizabeth Warren or some other Democrat has won the White House.
Based on Trump’s precedent, this new President decides to declare a national emergency due to climate change. Because they’re talking all the time about how it’s an emergency. Senator Ed Markey, one of the proponents of so-called “Green New Deal” legislation, said recently that “we need bold action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and we may have as few as 12 years to achieve it.”
Ironically, Senator Markey has also accused Republicans of playing a dirty trick by voting on his legislation too quickly, so it might be fair to question just how much urgency he really feels about this stuff.
But let’s, for the moment, take Markey and other Democrats at their word when they say climate change is an imminent crisis.
The future O’Rourke or Warren administration could, based on what Trump is doing, declare a national emergency and begin implementing policy like the “Green New Deal,” circumventing Congress’ power to make policy and control appropriations.
Republicans would no doubt scream bloody murder over this development, but if they were Republicans who supported Trump’s declaration, they would be hypocrites.
I understand, and share, frustration over the state of affairs at our southern border. For years politicians have promised us solutions, and for years the compromises and half measures they’ve implemented have had little practical impact. But it is folly to let that frustration boil over into support for a President abusing his executive powers in such a flagrant way. All the more so because, now that this Rubicon has been crossed, there’s no going back.
If Trump pulls this off, all future Presidents will be declaring emergencies every time Congress or the rule of law gets in their way.
The problem with giving a politician you like more power is that inevitably he or she will be replaced by a politician you don’t like. They’ll have that power too.