President Trump Is Not A King

February 21, 2019
In The News

“The President’s power, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself...When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb.” – U.S. Supreme Court, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952).

Unlike kings of old, the United States Supreme Court explains quite clearly that a president’s power comes from, and is limited to, what is granted by the U.S. Constitution and acts of Congress. In Congress, we specifically had the opportunity to fund a border wall in this latest Appropriations Act and intentionally chose not to do so. Unable to secure funding through Congress, President Trump has declared a National Emergency to build his proposed border wall.

This declaration is a blatant attempt to circumvent Congress’ appropriations power. It was done as an alternative strategy to the appropriations process to get wall funding, not because an emergency already existed. On January 10, 2019, Trump stated the declaration was his “absolute right” and that "[i]f we don't make a deal, I think it would be very surprising to me" to not declare an emergency.

If it was such an emergency, President Trump would have declared it since day one of his presidency. Most alarmingly, President Trump basically admitted already that there was no emergency. On Friday during a press conference at the White House, he stated: “I didn’t need to do this...But I’d rather do it much faster.”

Locally, President Trump’s national emergency declaration could possibly impact over $177 million in Florida projects alone.

Nationally, Trump invoked 10 USC Sec 12302 to order military reserve units to support the “activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security at the southern border.” Then, he invoked 10 USC Sec 2808 “to engage in emergency construction as necessary to support the use of the Armed Forces and respond to the crisis at our southern border.”

Since the Pentagon has an estimated $21 billion in unobligated military construction funds already, the key test for the courts will be whether the spending of such funds are in fact “necessary to support the use of the Armed Forces.” Currently, there is no armed military invasion coming through the southern border seeking to overthrow our country. The reality is that there is an asylum seeker crisis, not a military one. So, by any reasonable interpretation, the emergency declaration would not be for supporting use of our armed forces. At best, Trump’s wall would attempt to boost border security to support the Department of Homeland Security, not the military.

This could take away billions of dollars in military construction money that wouldotherwise support the use of our Armed Forces, and instead, divert it towards an ineffective border wall. The courts may never let it get that far. But tying this money up in litigation for years, and depriving our troops of the resources they need, could ultimately be the real national emergency here.

Congressman Darren Soto represents Florida’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Osceola County, as well as parts of Orange and Polk counties.

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