Fastest so­lu­tion to end­ing dead­lock on shut­down

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - CAMERON STE­WART WASH­ING­TON COR­RE­SPON­DENT Cameron Ste­wart is also US Con­trib­u­tor for Sky News Aus­tralia

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.

AFP

Don­ald Trump, flanked by Texas sen­a­tors John Cornyn, left, and Ted Cruz on the Rio Grande at the bor­der with Mex­ico yes­ter­day

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