The recent long term federal government shutdown may be over, but the threat of President Donald Trump continuing to seek to bend American government towards his goal of building a border wall blocking off Mexico has not dissipated. In that light, this past week, dozens of House Democrats signed onto a letter pushing House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to seek to include a provision in the next military appropriations bill that formally blocks the White House from using military money for the wall.
Previously, Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency and use subsequent executive power to redirect the billions of dollars he wants for the wall. He has asserted he wants to find a negotiated solution to the stalemate first — but the Trump team has already produced a draft declaration of national emergency anyway, concurrently identifying some $7 billion that could be redirected for wall construction, including $3.6 billion in military construction and $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, meaning the majority would be coming from the Defense Department.
The Democrats who expressed their concern this week asserted that this scenario would violate clear legal norms surrounding both the military and the government funding appropriations process.
As they put it:
‘A President’s war powers are the most serious powers held by the Commander in Chief and should never be utilized for political stunts, only genuine national security emergencies.’
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) who led the effort to garner support for this push quipped:
‘This president doesn’t seem to understand what’s in the law and where the prerogatives of the Congress come in.’
There remains essentially no evidence of a national security emergency at the southern U.S. border as Trump has claimed. If there was such a crisis, would he really have the opportunity to mull over whether he’d make a formal declaration of emergency or not?
Undocumented border crossings have continued their overall downward historical trend, and there’s no substantial evidence that undocumented immigration poses any special security threat to the United States. The State Department itself has declared there’s no evidence of terrorist groups utilizing the southern border to target the United States, and as for those who do make it over — educated estimates suggest more Americans lose their lives to food poisoning than undocumented immigrants each year… not to mention the masses of native born Americans who commit crimes Trump has singled out for scrutiny among immigrants.
The new surge among House Democrats against the president’s fearmongering comes as they grapple with their new realities and powers as the majority party. Those who joined Schakowsky’s effort to put an end to Trump’s mulling about a national security declaration range from Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) to Hawaii Democrat — and 2020 presidential nomination contender — Tulsi Gabbard.
Although there’s still significant time to go before the next year’s military appropriations bill is passed, Smith has already spoken against the idea of Trump using a national emergency declaration to get his wall built, so he’s likely keen on the proposed block in question.
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