Just five days before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to build an unnecessary vanity wall, the president sent out a tweet quoting foothill Congressman Tom McClintock.
Disregarding the power of the purse held by Congress, McClintock stated, “The president is on sound legal ground to declare a national emergency. There have been 58 national emergencies declared since the law was enacted in 1976, and 31 are currently active; so this is hardly unprecedented.”
What is unprecedented is for the president to do an end run around Congress to appropriate money for a manufactured crisis. One of the hallmarks of the Constitution is the “separation of powers” for our three branches of government.
In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers believed “checks and balances” were necessary to protect our Democracy. A Constitutional crisis is inevitable if the president is allowed to manufacture a crisis in order to bypass Congressional authority.
The National Emergencies Act does not automatically hand the president a blank check if a national emergency is declared. Contrary to what the president is calling a crisis, border crossings and border arrests are at the lowest levels in decades. In addition, between 2009 and 2014, 13 percent more Mexicans returned to Mexico than migrated to the United States.
For over a decade, McClintock has spoken religiously at town halls about the Constitution and the genius of our Founding Fathers. Just over 5 years ago, during the 16-day 2013 government shutdown, McClintock went on the House floor and defended the power of the purse against the Obama administration’s request to raise the debt ceiling. He said the 2013 impasse, “had taken on the dimensions of a Constitutional crisis.”
McClintock also claimed in 2013, “If the Republicans acquiesce to the president’s wishes, then a fundamental element of our Constitution will have been destroyed. The power of the purse will have shifted from the representatives of the people to the executive. Thus, a perilous era will have begun.”
In a stunning reversal, McClintock, one of the president’s most vocal supporters in the House, has abandoned his reverence for the Constitution.
The real crisis for the president is his inability to fulfill a campaign promise to build a vanity wall and have Mexico pay for it. By manufacturing a national emergency, he decided to do what he failed to accomplish in the two years Republicans had control of Congress.
The president even admitted in a press conference, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”
Congressman John Garamendi, D-Calif., is taking a strong stand against the emergency declaration. Garamendi chairs the Readiness Subcommittee that controls the funding for the military projects the president wants to sideline. He compared the president’s raiding of funds Congress has appropriated for crucial national security projects with “putting his hands on a very hot stove.”
Garamendi calls the emergency declaration, “A sham emergency that is unconstitutional and unnecessary. I will push back to protect the military projects in our communities.”
The likely outcome for the fake emergency declaration is that it will get overturned by the courts on the merits, or get tossed from challenges from property owners over the massive seizures of private land along the nearly 2,000 mile southern border.
By giving the president a green light to violate the Constitution, McClintock has defied our Founding Fathers desire to protect us from an autocratic president. It is hypocritical for McClintock to change his tune on a fundamental Constitutional issue now that a Republican is in the White House and Democrats control the House of Representatives.
Marc Boyd lives in the Mother Lode and is an educator, a businessman, and former Democratic candidate for state Assembly in the foothill district.