On Tuesday, the House will hold a vote weighing in on Donald Trump’s declaration that people attempting to cross our southern border without authorization (a misdemeanor offense) constitutes a “National Emergency” of such dire import that it justifies bypassing the will of Congress, and by extension, the will of the American people.
On Friday, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro introduced a Resolution of Disapproval of the President’s “emergency” declaration, co-sponsored by 225 Democrats and, as of this writing, exactly one Republican.
The House Rules Committee will receive the Resolution on Monday, and on Tuesday, the House will vote on it. The passage of that Resolution in both the House and Senate would have the effect of overruling Donald Trump’s declaration, which he issued in order to allow the administration to pilfer and redirect billions of dollars—that had been designated for other purposes—towards building a border “wall” instead. At that point, Trump must decide whether to veto the Resolution. If, as expected, he does that, then the House and Senate will vote on whether to override his veto.
The significance of Tuesday’s vote and what it will show about the Republican Party cannot be overstated. As required to assume their office, each and every elected representative in both sides of Congress took a formal oath to defend the Constitution. They stood before their families, friends, constituents and cameras, placed their hand on a Bible or whatever “holy book” they claimed to respect, smiled broadly, and declared their absolute fealty to that founding document.
Tuesday will show us, very simply, which Republicans actually believe in that oath and which ones do not. As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin succinctly puts it, writing for the Washington Post, Tuesday’s vote will show us all who the real Americans are in Congress, and, conversely, it will reveal which ones are truly un-American at their core.
“And so, in just a few days, Republicans will be unmasked. Those who want conservative judges to uphold the letter of the Constitution, who lambasted President Barack Obama for issuing by executive order the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals and who claim to be defenders of limited government yet nevertheless support a bad-faith invocation of emergency to sidestep the legislative process will be revealed as not just unconservative but anti-democratic (small “d”) and hostile to the Constitution.”
The Constitution unquestionably and absolutely vests Congress—not the President—with the power of appropriations. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on Friday, this is not a politically partisan matter, but a matter of simple patriotism.
Congress is “the first branch of government … imbued with powers in the text of the Constitution, including the power of the purse,” she said Friday morning in a press conference call. In announcing the introduction of a resolution to cut short President Trump’s bogus emergency declaration, she warned that if his maneuver succeeds, it “would fundamentally alter the balance of powers.”
This week, Speaker Pelosi took the extremely rare and unusual step of sending a letter to all her co-Representatives in the House. The letter was addressed “Dear Colleague,” and explicitly laid out, in non-partisan terms, the Constitutional imperative that this coming vote represents: “[W]e have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and defend our system of checks and balances against the President’s assault,” she wrote.
Critical principles are at stake — Congress’s power of the purse, the separation of powers — that transcend any one declaration or leader. Members of both parties need to make clear that a presidential pique is not the same thing as a national emergency, that a president who fails to persuade Congress to support his priorities can’t then simply pursue them by fiat. Lawmakers who cannot rally themselves to this cause should stop pretending that they’re anything more than partisan automatons; they will have declared themselves members of a second-class branch of government.
There is no “emergency” here, warranting the usurpation of Congressional power vested by the Constitution itself. There is nothing even close to an “emergency.” For Republicans who kept up a constant whine during the Obama administration about that President’s alleged “abuses” in exercising the powers of the Executive Branch, their silence in the face of this naked power grab by Trump—a blatant rebuke to their own vested authority—is simply stunning. And more broadly, for a group of elected lawmakers who “swore an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of their office,” that silence is unbelievably revealing.
As Rubin concludes in her WaPo column, this coming Tuesday, the Republicans in the House of Representatives will in all likelihood show us they are not really “Americans” at all. That they are no better than the docile masses of so-called “lawmakers” who would leap on cue to applaud a Josef Stalin or a Chairman Mao. The sort who force themselves to cheer and clap louder, compelled only by instincts of self-preservation or sheer cowardice.
That they are without any honor, principles or integrity. And that their sworn oath to defend this country’s Constitution was never anything but a bald-faced lie.