In a new editorial, the Washington Post calls on Democrats in the House to force a vote on a privileged joint resolution challenging the President’s emergency declaration. This would force every member of Congress to go on record and declare whether they support the President as he diverts congressionally appropriated funds to his border wall after a full debate in each chamber about issues ranging from its impact on military readiness to eminent domain land seizures and the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in the courts, this policy and political standoff is of such paramount importance that it requires a vote so that every Member of the House and Senate declares where they stand.
Below, read key excerpts of the editorial, titled “No one in Congress should be allowed to avoid voting on this presidential power grab,” and read in full online here.
Sixteen states, led by California, have filed suit in federal court to block any construction of a wall along the southern border using reprogrammed funds pursuant to President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. Their complaint presents a persuasive case against the president’s move, to the effect that it runs contrary to the constitutional rule that the executive branch may not spend money without Congress’s permission. And, in this case, Congress has explicitly denied Mr. Trump funds to build any barrier except for 55 miles of bollard-style fencing in a specific area of Texas. Not only is there no national emergency, the complaint argues, but also the wall would not meet the definition of “military construction” in the statute Mr. Trump claims as authority for $3.6 billion of his proposed spending.
…Congress has already provided a means of checking executive overreach, in the aforementioned National Emergencies Act, through the termination of a declared emergency by a simple majority vote of both chambers. If the Democratic House disapproved Mr. Trump’s declaration, the Senate would be required to vote on the matter, too, within 18 days. Crucially, such a resolution would be considered “privileged” and could not be filibustered.
…Congress must pursue a joint resolution for two reasons. First, it is the remedy for executive overreach prescribed by law. And who knows? Eight Republican senators have said they oppose the emergency declaration; a number of others, as well as GOP House members, have expressed misgivings. After a debate in which the full negative implications are made clear — including, for them, the political repercussions and the precedent set for future presidents — it’s just barely conceivable a presidential veto could be overridden.
But only barely — which brings us to the second reason Democrats should use their control of the House to initiate a joint resolution of disapproval: No one in the House or Senate should be allowed to avoid voting on this presidential power grab, and being held accountable for it by the voters. Legal scholars may disagree, legitimately, as to the proper role for judges in protecting legislative prerogatives against alleged executive usurpation. Surely, though, members of Congress should have to stand up and be counted.”