Typically, when a president wants to make policy, he has to negotiate a deal with Congress. Because that hasn’t worked out for President Donald Trump in securing his border wall, he’s tried to find another way to lock down the $5 billion he wants to build it. “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want,” he told reporters on Wednesday. By Thursday night, administration officials were reportedly looking at reallocating funds earmarked for national-disaster relief in Texas and Puerto Rico, which were hit by hurricanes last year.
In making this move, Trump would explicitly attempt to circumvent the political process. But he would also be exploiting a long-standing fact about the U.S. government: Executive power has expanded, with Congress’s blessing, to the point that unilateral action like this may in fact be perfectly legal. Democrats are apparently looking into the possibility of a court challenge if Trump moves forward, but they may be banking on an uncertain legal stopgap. Ultimately, the impasse over the alleged national emergency at the border reveals the extent to which the American government now runs on executive authority, and how heavily legislators have come to depend on the courts to referee their political disagreements.
[Read: What the president could do if he declares a state of emergency]
National emergencies, as Americans know them today, are an artifact of another era of expansive executive power. As allegations from the Watergate scandal were closing in on President Richard Nixon, he began declaring national emergencies in response to everything from a postal strike to a trade imbalance, said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Congress sought to regulate this presidential power, which had also been used liberally by prior presidents, with its 1976 …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Politics