By Chandra K. Mittal, Ph.D.
While there are no real limits to trickery and manipulation in the sport of politics, President Donald Trump reached a new crescendo in political theatrics last week with his declaration of National Emergency, albeit a naïve and risky one. He accepted in to the FY 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Bill passed by both chambers of Congress with only 1.375 Billion Dollars (compared to his demand of 5.7 Billion) funding for his signature Border Wall. But he did so by signing the bill into law with one hand while covering his nose with the other, knowing well that it would not sit well with his conservative political base.
So, for both theatric and optic purpose Donald Trump coupled the Bill signing ritual with the declaration of National Emergency at the Southern border with Mexico. His demeanor appeared hesitant and lacked confidence as was apparent from his statement “I didn’t have to do it” but I will do it, which totally undercut his rational for the national emergency declaration.
In addition, his uncharacteristic blabbering about the disapproval and foreseeable negative action by Congressional Democrats against his emergency declaration or court challenges that may lie ahead, etc. provided a clear clue that he feared a backlash from his conservative base, and might have entered in the “political risk zone” with his base for Election 2020.
On their part, not to be run over by Democrats or moderate Republicans who supported the 2019 Appropriation Bill, the frustrated conservatives had a convulsive response to President Trump succumbing to the Democrat’s Congressional actions. They also feeling betrayed by their own man, US Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, whom they blame for giving into the demands of the Democrats who are traditionally sympathetic to illegal immigrants from the US-Mexico border.
Many of the influential conservative Talk Radio hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, etc. criticize President Trump’s decision to sign the bill that will fund several measures to make it more comfortable for the illegal immigrants, which, in their judgment will encourage more illegal immigration into the United States on the Southern border. Laura Ingraham tweeted (This bill is tantamount to an illegal immigration “stimulus” – de facto amnesty to any “sponsor” family member or “potential sponsor” of an unaccompanied minor. #ChainMigration Amnesty)
But prominent Republicans in the Senate like Senator Mitch MCConnell, Charles Grassley and others, having been cornered by the Democrats and seeing specter of another Government shutdown, just could not take it anymore. They prayed and urged the President to sign the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Bill along with national emergency declaration or some other type of executive action to blunt whatever blowback the President receives from conservatives.
Ironically, though, it was Mitch McConnell who, in the beginning, was urging President Donald Trump not to declare National Emergency as it would set a bad precedence, which Democrats could use in the future to ban guns or force climate-related rules by executive order. But, in the end, instinct for political survival of the Republicans in the 2020 elections forced Donald Trump to sign the bill.
In reality, however, the declaration of National Emergency on the Southern Border by President Trump has not at all pacified the Right or the Conservatives who are feeling totally betrayed by Donald Trump. This was aptly reflected in a statement of the conservative columnist Ann Coulter on a radio show who said “The only national emergency is that our President is an idiot”. Venting of such sentiments will certainly weigh in President’s future actions with his eyes on 2020 election.
Thus, today President Trump stands between the “rock and a hard place” as he sees Democrats toppling his 2016 election promise to build the “beautiful Border Wall” on the US-Mexico border, and the Republicans unable to rescue him. Indeed dream of the border wall may have been crashed beyond retrieval as multiple challenges lie ahead. Before US Congress takes up the disapproval bill against the National Emergency, several State governments have already filed lawsuits in Federal courts to prevent President from re-purposing the pre-approved funds by Congress.
Finally, it is the victory of the US Constitution, where Congress’s “power of the purse” prevailed over the “will and whims” of the President. Regardless of the political party, Constitution is too scared to be violated for the sake of pacifying any political interest or constituency. Today, it was Republican interest that got hurt, tomorrow it will be some Democrat’s preference that will not prevail. But, in the end, what will count is the supremacy of the US Constitution because without it, there will be no United States of America. So, let us all celebrate it.
(Dr. Chandra Mittal is Professor at Houston Community College, Op-Ed Columnist, and Co-Founder of Indo-American Association (IAA)-Houston. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Chandra K. Mittal, Ph.D.