Following three weeks of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans have finally reached a compromise on border security to avoid a second government shutdown. The deal includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing but falls short of the $5 billion Trump has demanded for a border wall. Trump will begrudgingly sign the bill, but not to be defeated, he has declared a “national emergency” on the US border with Mexico to secure the border wall funding he wants.
The 35-day government shutdown over the border wall did not go well for Trump as the majority of Americans blamed the President for the shutdown. Even his base began turning on him. Politically, Trump had no choice but to sign the bill or risk a bigger fallout.
Through his executive powers, Trump seeks to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects and will also have access to money from counter-narcotics programs and Treasury Department asset forfeiture funds. Thus, the President will end up with over $8 billion in funds towards building fencing on the border – significantly more than the $5.7 billion the Trump administration demanded initially.
The President’s decision to declare a national emergency is a risky move and one that not only will get push-back from Democrats in Congress but will also be challenged in the courts since the Constitution gives Congress control of appropriations. Through the National Emergencies Act, Congress will use its powers to limit the President’s actions, putting forth a resolution to abrogate Trump’s emergency declaration. Such a bill will pass in the House, which is controlled by the Democrats. Republicans in the Senate will need to balance their concerns with opposing President Trump against the precedent his declaration sets. Much like the shutdown, this will test whether the President loses support among members of his party.
The legislative and legal battles will be long and ugly and will play into the 2020 campaigns. For Trump, this is all about optics. He is a disrupter. He wants to deliver on his promise to build a wall to deal with what he describes as the “growing crisis” at the US-Mexico border. And he is happy to challenge conventional wisdom that says this can’t be done. Democrats will also use this declaration to their advantage, arguing the President is ignoring the US Constitution, to rally their political base. What the American public thinks of all of this is not yet known.
Will this become a full-blown constitutional crisis? Will the US Supreme Court weigh-in on Trump’s use of his emergency powers? Will Republicans back the President? Stay tuned…