Fastest solution to ending deadlock on shutdown
Donald Trump is right to seriously consider declaring a national emergency as a way of paying for his border wall and ending the US government shutdown.
There are problems with such a dramatic move but as things stand, it is the only foreseeable way to leapfrog the deadlock between the Democrats and Trump and end the increasingly damaging federal shutdown.
Declaring a national emergency would allow Trump to bypass a gridlocked congress and obtain his $US5.7 billion for the wall via Pentagon defence funds rather than linking it as a condition of a funding bill to reopen the federal government.
Such a move would immediately be challenged in the courts by the Democrats as an overreach of his executive powers, but regardless of that outcome, it would allow both Trump and the Democrats a face-saving solution to the crisis.
More importantly it would allow the US government to reopen and pay cheques to be delivered to 800,000 workers.
For Trump, it would allow him to claim to those who elected him president that he has done everything possible to achieve his signature election promise of a wall stretching across the US-Mexico border.
Trump can rightly claim the wall as a key part of his mandate as president, despite the strong objections of his political opponents. After all, he won the election, they didn’t.
For the Democrats, a declaration of a national emergency by Trump would allow them to claim they stood fast in their opposition to the wall.
An emergency declaration would provide the party with rich pickings to portray the President as autocratic and undemocratic.
The truth is that both Trump and the Democrats deserve blame for the current damaging impasse that has triggered the almost three-week shutdown.
Trump deserves condemnation for cynically linking money for his border wall with a funding bill to keep the government operational.
This has held key government agencies hostage and has needlessly hurt ordinary Americans
But the Democrats also deserve condemnation for their breathtaking hypocrisy in declaring a border wall as an “immor- ality” after they supported in 2006 — and later implemented under Barack Obama — the construction of border fences across no less than one-third of the border.
A border wall may or may not prove effective and it is American taxpayers who will bear the substantial cost.
But those same taxpayers elected Trump on a promise to build it.
With 400,000 illegal migrants caught last year for crossing the border, a wall would clearly help reduce those numbers even if the other benefits touted by Trump such as reducing the influx of criminals and drug runners appear grossly overstated.
There are, however, some important downsides if Trump chooses to declare a national emergency to obtain funding for his wall.
Firstly, it is not a national emergency. Trump’s Oval Office speech this week was riddled with falsehoods and exaggerations about the alleged “humanitarian and national security crisis” on the border. However, illegal immigration in the US is a major problem and the country’s immigration and border security laws are a shambles. Yet it is not, in the context of recent American history, a national emergency in the manner which the legislation was intended.
In the 58 times that a president has declared national emergency powers, Trump would be the first president to do so in order to achieve a policy goal after failing to win congressional approval.
The fact that Pentagon funds would be used for the construction of the wall is also of concern because it will cut into other aspects of military spending and preparedness.
But Trump and the Democrats are showing zero willingness to negotiate a political solution to the shutdown and the impact of the prolonged closures across key government agencies are now hurting millions of ordinary Americans.
Declaring a national emergency would spark a fierce national debate about the respective powers of the president versus congress. But it would also provide the fastest solution to what will be within days the longest government shutdown in US history.
Donald Trump, flanked by Texas senators John Cornyn, left, and Ted Cruz on the Rio Grande at the border with Mexico yesterday