For the first time in the history of the United States of America, a president has had his emergency declaration challenged, and now faces a mutiny amongst his own party. Twelve Republican Senators, along with the entirety of the 47 Democratic Senators, voted in favor of a resolution calling for the elimination of the presidential emergency declaration. This is after an overwhelming majority voted likewise in the lower Chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives. Both votes, a direct challenge to the power of President Donald Trump came as a surprise because the overwhelming majority of Senate and House Republicans are in favor of border security, but a great deal of them are uneasy about the president circumventing Congress to get his border wall funding.
The reason why senators balk at the presidential emergency declaration is because, historically, emergency declarations have always been aimed at helping provide immediate aid to communities devastated by natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires. This is the first time a sitting president has used this power for what many on both sides of the isle see as not being a real immediate threat, immigration. Politically he has to do this to achieve, or at least appear to achieve, success in accomplishing one of his center campaign promises, a border wall with Mexico. He has even admitted, that he didn’t have to do this but that he doesn’t want to wait for Congress.
Since the inception of emergency powers in the second half of the 20th century, presidents have used them to help provide a sense of leadership and a quick response to developing and rapidly changing situations and emergencies. Many presidents have used them, and so have many state governors, although at the state level emergency declarations are primarily used as a means to force federal aid into the region at a quicker and more efficient way then it would otherwise go if done via state legislature. So, a president declaring an emergency is not entirely unheard of, what is unheard of is a president using it as a means to circumvent Congress altogether.
A rising problem that Republicans see with this is the precedent that it sets, if this is allowed to go unchallenged it will mean that any future Democratic president could do likewise to get their way, like using it as a means to expand gun control, increase spending for the welfare state and a whole array of other things that presidents would otherwise have to depend on Congress for to achieve. The idea is that if a president can circumvent Congress, then the power that Congress wields is diminished at best, and at worst it is eliminated altogether, because if a president can declare an emergency, real or not, then they can in theory do just about anything without any congressional checks on the executive branches power. This is completely unconstitutional, and more so it is dangerous, because it removes the delicate balance of powers that are spread across the three branches of government.
The good news is that Congress sent a strong message to the executive branch, and even though the president ultimately vetoed the resolution, it shows that Congress will not just roll over for what the president says. The question that now arises is, what’s next? The executive branch created this constitutional crisis when Congress failed to provide the funding for what the president wanted, and now the final decision falls to the courts, the third branch of government. The courts have to remain independent, and adhere only to the constitution and not party politics or beliefs. In other words, the ruling from this court could very well set the tone for politics for the foreseeable future. If the checks and balances of power were to be upheld, or if the time has come in a more monolithic form of government in where the president has more power and sway than any other president beforehand has had. It appears that the time has come for the courts to decide if we as a nation will remain Democratic, or turn Authoritarian.