This CNN article, and the conventional wisdom it recites, is so wrong that you have to wonder if the author has been living in the same America as the rest of us for the last few years.
The gist of it is that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border is some kind of massive political problem for the Republican party. But actually, it’s a great way for the Republicans to excite their base of racists; the GOP will suffer no consequences, either from professional Republican hypocrites or terrified, ineffective Democrats; and in the long run, it will be yet another tactic used exclusively by Republicans – like shutdowns – to get what they want at the expense of democracy. It’s a win all around for Trump, who completely rolled all the Democrats in Congress on the wall issue.
Before I get into the article’s vapid, naïve arguments, let’s remember what happened here. The Democrats and the Republicans negotiated for a bill to avoid another government shutdown. The end result gave Trump 55 miles of wall, far less than he wanted but a “good start,” to paraphrase Sean Hannity. Before the Senate or the House voted on the bill, Trump said, “Great! I’ll take your 55 miles, ignore your budgetary constraints, and do whatever I want.” And the Democrats, so terrified of being blamed for a government shutdown, still voted to give him his 55 miles. Stunning.
So, so far, Trump is clearly winning. The national emergency is key – it lets him avoid political defeat while simultaneously strengthening his own power. So why is CNN insisting that this is a big misstep by Trump which is going to tear the Republican party apart?
Okay, before I start quoting this article, I just want you to take a few minutes and think about how the Republican party has behaved for the last ten or so years. Specifically think about things like Merrick Garland. Because this article is heavily based on the idea that Republicans have a tremendous respect for institutions, democracy, and the rule of law. Okay, here we go:
In the scenario Hill Republicans fear most, Trump declares a national emergency and House Democrats quickly pass a joint resolution against it, sending what amounts to a political grenade into the Senate. There, Republicans would be forced into either supporting a national emergency or rebuking a GOP president on his signature issue.
It would also force them to grapple with a handful of other thorny issues — from executive overreach to separation of powers to raiding Pentagon money to pay for border security.
Lol, in what world would it “force” Republicans to “grapple” with these issues? Grapple in what sense? Lay awake at night and reflect? Because all they are going to do is vote to support the national emergency and go on living their lives. Why on earth would we think it would be any different? Is Mitch McConnell going to hold an open floor debate on “executive overreach” and start a national dialogue, or are a few Democrats going to make meaningless, quickly forgotten speeches before the Senate votes to allow Trump to essentially become a dictator?
For certain Republicans who criticized Obama for sidestepping Congress and relying on executive action, this presents a bit of a no-win situation. Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul blasted Obama for acting like a “monarch” and a “king” when taking executive action on immigration issues.
Faced with having to vote on a privileged resolution overturning Trump’s emergency declaration for the wall, Cruz and Paul could either turn a blind eye to similar circumvention by Trump, inviting accusations of hypocrisy, or defy the President and risk looking weak on border security.
Again, you have to laugh at this. Do GOP senators SEEM like people terrified of being accused of hypocrisy? Have they literally ever acted this way, at all, in the last ten years? Or have they flip-flopped on every single criticism they had of Obama as soon as Trump did it (higher deficits, crony corporatism, executive overreach, even stupid shit like the President golfing too much)? Ted Cruz, to the extent that he even acknowledges that there can be a comparison made between Obama and Trump, will say, “This time is different.” And he will continue to be the popular senator from Texas for many years to come. This is the man who became a key Trump ally after Trump publicly said his wife was ugly and his father killed JFK. Come on!
Many Capitol Hill Republicans would balk at assenting to a new norm on national emergencies, and worry about setting a precedent that future Democratic presidents could use to push a left-wing agenda item.
Well, if this really is something Capitol Hill Republicans are worried about, and I doubt it actually is, they can stop worrying, because there is no prominent Democrat who would have the guts to use a national emergency declaration to achieve a policy preference. This is the same Democratic party that was so terrified of a shutdown, they gave the President 55 miles of wall even after he told them to go fuck themselves. This is the party of “when they go low, we go high.” This is the party that continues to revere – idolize! – a president whose primary negotiation tactic was assuming the Republicans would be good faith negotiating partners and put the country first. This is the party that last week backed down from subpoenaing a witness who refused to answer their questions because they didn’t want to get everybody too riled up. This is not a party that is ever going to elect a president who will use an emergency declaration to do something interesting, like ban guns or redirect money to fighting climate change. Never going to happen.
Constitutional issues aside, congressional appropriators in both parties guard their power closely, and an emergency declaration that redirected billions of taxpayer dollars would be seen as a clear theat. “Taken to an extreme, it would render the appropriations process meaningless,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told CNN.
And I look forward to Susan Collins being one of the two votes, along with Lisa Murkowski, against the national emergency declaration. Mitch McConnell will allow them to peel off because it won’t affect the final vote result. As for the others, again, Mitch McConnell, allegedly this careful guardian of the Senate’s power, has already come out in support of a national emergency. The head of the party’s Senate majority! So forgive me if I think everyone is going to get over their “appropriations anxiety” pretty fucking quick once the President starts threatening to make fun of them on Twitter. That said, even if there were enough defectors to pass this, Trump would veto it, and there are DEFINITELY not enough defectors to override a veto.
Defense and national security hawks also have reason not to support Trump’s executive order, which could raid the Defense Department and redirect money earmarked for disaster recovery and military construction projects. One Hill GOP source says Trump’s purported plans would affect projects in every state.
In the tax cut bill, the President and Congress had no problems whatsoever raising revenue from blue states alone, without having to increase any red state taxes. This was via lowering the SALT deduction. And Republicans have time and again voted against providing disaster aid to blue states, most recently in Puerto Rico – it isn’t something that bothers them. There is no doubt in my mind that Trump, fully free from the binds of congressional appropriators, will have no problem taking money from places that Republicans don’t give a shit about. He could probably fund the whole fucking wall just by stealing from Puerto Rico.
And then there’s the threat to swing-state GOP senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona, who risk alienating moderate voters if they have to vote to support Trump’s national emergency, and inviting contempt from the President or conservative voters if they don’t.
Sounds to me like Cory Gardner has pretty definitively thrown his lot in with Trump, if only to fend off a primary challenge. Also, the GOP can lose another vote besides Collins and Murkowski. I doubt, in the end, McSally will vote against the national emergency declaration, for the same reasons Gardner won’t, but the GOP could cut her lose if she insisted on it, and still win the vote.
Here’s what’s going to happen.
The President will declare a national emergency. The House will pass a resolution “cancelling” it. The Senate will vote on the House resolution. It will fail. (Alternately, it will pass and Trump will veto it – the Republicans will not override the veto.) No Republican will ever acknowledge this again in any context, or ever be shamed or feel at all negative about being hypocrites, and Trump will raid Puerto Rico disaster recovery funds and build a big fucking wall on the southern border. And Democrats will refuse to demand his tax returns or do anything that could conceivably be called “resisting” because they are scared of Trump’s erratic nature and don’t want to do anything that might have unintended effects on their own power, wealth, and comfort, like provoking an actual revolution or a coup. And when we have another Democratic president, they will ignore the liberal base’s request to declare a national emergency to combat climate change and in fact, will publicly mock those asking for such a thing as out-of-touch leftists, like prominent Democrats always do. It’s gonna be a fun few years!