The Wall, US border, separating Mexico from the US, along Highway 2, Sonora Desert, Mexican side. Photo credit: Wonderlane
The Wall, US border, separating Mexico from the US, along Highway 2, Sonora Desert, Mexican side
Photo credit: Wonderlane (CC-By-2.0)

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted 59 to 41 in favor of a resolution that states the national emergency President Donald Trump declared to free up discretionary military funds to build border barriers has ended.

The resolution sponsored by Congressman Joaquin Castro (R-Texas) passed last month in the U.S. House of Representatives by a 245 to 182 vote. President Trump has promised to veto the bill and Congress does not have the votes for an override.

I disagreed with President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to leverage funds to build sections of a border wall or barrier at strategic points along our southern border.

I disagreed with the President doing that because I believe it would establish a dangerous precedent taking action like this after a long fight over funding that led to a partial government shutdown.

Securing the border should not require a national emergency as Congress and President Trump should work in the national interest. Democrats did not negotiate with President Trump in good faith over border funding. Funding that up until President Trump took office was never controversial.

Since then we have seen calls to abolish ICE. We have seen Democrats criticize any effort to secure the border. On the other side, we have Republicans who refuse to any compromise including on policies such as DACA.

Congress must address the crisis at the border and work to fix our broken immigration system, and that includes border security. Border arrests are up. We have a backlog of refugee requests, and the number of people attempting to enter the country outside of legal ports of entry is increasing. We need more border patrol agents, we need more staff to process refugee requests and process people detained, and we need border barriers where they can best make an impact.

In light of this President Trump declared a national emergency as preceding Presidents have done for numerous reasons since the National Emergencies Act (NEA) passed under President Jimmy Carter.

What President Trump did was legal because Congress, through the National Emergencies Act, gave the President that authority.

The resolution that passed was a politically motivated attempt to stop border funding, not address the more significant problem which is the expanding use of executive power.

As a result, there were Republican U.S. Senators, skeptical of President Trump’s use of the NEA for border funding vote against the resolution.

Notably, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), who has been a frequent critic of President Trump’s, voted no on the resolution.

“We have an obvious crisis at the border — everyone who takes an honest look at the spiking drug and human trafficking numbers knows this — and the President has a legal path to a rapid response under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (NEA). I think that law is overly broad and I want to fix it, but at present Nancy Pelosi doesn’t, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution,” Sasse said.

Sasse called for Congress to pass the ARTICLE ONE Act, a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) that narrows the scope of the NEA.

The bill would automatically end all future emergency declarations made under the NEA after 30 days unless Congress voted affirmatively to extend the emergency. Currently, Congress can cancel an emergency declaration only by passing a resolution that can withstand a presidential veto which is what Congress attempted to do on Thursday.

“I urge both the Majority and Minority Leaders to assist in moving this legislation through committee and quickly to the Floor for debate, negotiation, and passage through the full Senate. If this Congress is serious in its concerns about decades of executive overreach, we will devote ourselves to systematically reclaiming powers Congress has been imprudently granting to presidents of both parties for far too long. Today’s resolution doesn’t fix anything because the root problem here can’t be fixed with bare-knuckled politics but rather with a deliberate debate about the powers that Congress has been giving away and that the Executive has therefore claimed,” Sassed added.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a co-sponsor of the ARTICLE ONE Act who also voted no on Thursday’s resolution, stated, “For decades, Congress has ceded too much power to the executive branch of government. In 1976, Congress gave the president the authority to declare national emergencies, so we shouldn’t be surprised when he seeks to use it, just as others have done. The ARTICLE ONE Act returns more power to the people’s representatives in Congress by requiring swift approval of such declarations. I encourage my colleagues to join in this effort, which takes real action, as opposed to symbolic show votes that don’t address the root of the problem.”

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also voted against the resolution but co-sponsored the ARTICLE ONE Act.

“There is a humanitarian crisis at our southern border that demands attention and action. Iowans have been clear on their desire for a strong, secure border and to curb human trafficking and the flow of drugs into our state,” Ernst said. “Under the National Emergencies Act, the president has the authority to make this decision, and while I’ve consistently stated this is not the approach I would have preferred, I do recognize the need to secure our border.”

“I hope to see Congress work diligently to enact legislation that will restore the balance of powers. That’s why I’ve cosponsored Senator Lee’s bill that gives Congress more oversight and puts a check on presidents’ authorities for emergency declarations,” she added.

Congress needs to take it authority back permanently, not pick and choose based on who the President is. Democrats also must negotiate with President Trump over border security, and Republicans must be willing to address immigration reform.

The current situation is untenable.

Photo credit: Wonderlane (CC-By-2.0)

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