On Thursday, Donald Trump moved closer to declaring a national emergency and seizing the funds to build his wall, despite failure to secure the support of Congress. As he did, Republicans in the Senate made it clear that they would not object to Trump turning the executive into the sole branch of government and conducting a not-quite-bloodless coup.
At a photo op at the border, Trump stated several times that he “maybe definitely” was going to declare a national emergency. He repeated this threat in an overnight tweet. The Washington Post reports that the military has already been ordered to prepare to begin building the wall—by stealing the money from projects that had already been approved, including funds dedicated to disaster relief. Trump is looking to take money from disaster relief in already sorely abused and neglected Puerto Rico, from fire-ravaged California, and from other areas affected by natural disasters, including the Texas coastline.
Meanwhile, a reliable chorus of Republicans cheered on Trump’s move toward a unitary government. That list, not surprisingly, included Lindsey Graham, who tweeted that Nancy Pelosi’s “refusal to negotiate on Wall/Barrier funding” meant that the “congressional path to fund Wall/Barrier” was at an end. Then, incredibly, Graham went on to say that it was time for Trump “to use emergency powers to build Wall/Barrier. I hope it works.”
When the executive wants something and can’t get it through Congress, the answer is … no. You don’t get it. When President Obama was negotiating for health care, it took repeated, drastic compromises and counter offers to secure the bare majority that saw the Affordable Care Act go through on a narrow majority. At no point did Obama say, “Screw this, the public option is so vital, I’m going to declare a national emergency and just implement it anyway.”
And he could have. Health care represented a much, much, much larger problem than anything that’s happening on the southern border. So does the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. So do any number of other issues. Republicans aren’t just opening the door to Trump bypassing Congress to get his wall; they’re making it clear that he always has an out. That Congress is not allowed to say no to Trump.