President Trump’s attempt to subvert through his “national emergency” declaration the intent of the Constitution that granted the authority to allocate federal funding only to Congress has forced congressional Republicans to choose sides.
On one side are the partisan hacks that have already suspended their misgivings over the barely-disguised presidential power grab that his opponents have likened to the first step in an authoritarian soft coup in our democratic political system.
On the other side are the more reflective members of the GOP who realize that setting a precedent for bogus emergency declarations by the head of the executive branch diminishes congressional leverage in the Constitution’s delicate balance of powers and can lead to a major backfire for their party’s agenda once the White House changes hands and a Democrat decides to follow Trump’s example to finance their goals without the approval of the nation’s elected representatives.
Count Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) among the latter group judging from his tweet this morning decrying the hypocrisy of his fellow Republicans in Congress who fought former President Obama on his use of executive orders to implement policy, but are now backing Trump’s far more severe disruption of legislative norms.
The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 23, 2019
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ready to hold a vote on Tuesday on legislation that would reverse Trump’s emergency order, there is little doubt that the bill will garner a majority in the House and by congressional rules then must be voted on by the Senate no matter how much that chamber’s Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may want to avoid it.
With at least one GOP Senator, Susan Collins (R-ME), on record as supporting the reversal, there is still a chance that the bill will pass both houses of Congress and make its way to the president’s desk for a promised veto if enough Republicans heed Rep. Amash’s warning over the consequences of their misguided loyalty to Trump.
It is, however, if and when the bill striking down the emergency declaration does make it to the veto stage that the true loyalties of the GOP members of Congress will be put to the test.
If enough Republican legislators decide that they have more at stake in supporting the Constitution’s separation of powers between branches of government than in propping up the president out of political expediency, then Trump’s veto can be overturned.
If that does come to pass, one can expect the Trump presidency to reach new heights of impotency in the face of a revolt against his totalitarian impulses by his own party.
If not enough Republicans abandon Trump, on the other hand, the GOP will be delivering a very potent campaign tool to their Democratic challengers in the 2020 election.
Either way, it certainly looks like a win-win proposition for the Democrats.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.