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Congress and the Emergency Declaration

         On February 14th, President Trump, impatient and unhappy with what he believed to be insufficient progress on the construction of his border wall, opted to try kick-starting the process through declaring a national emergency. This declaration enables him to siphon money unmolested from federal drug programs and Defense Department projects, and giving the executive 6.7 billion dollars to push towards the building of the wall. The president decided to utilize this formidable power to “get [the construction] done faster”.

        Over the course of the following week, legislation was drafted that could override Trump’s declaration and the corresponding privileges. On February 22, said legislation was presented in the Democratic Party-dominated House of Representatives. Due to the aforementioned Democratic majority, most expected the bill to pass the lower chamber of Congress with ease. Further supporting that prediction, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that “the president’s act is lawless and does violence to our constitution” that same day. Then, on February 26th, the House’s deliberation was complete, and a bill was released that pushed to block the national emergency and its additional components. 232 Democrat votes (every single Democrat in the House) and 13 Republican votes combined to block the declaration. The majority of Republicans did vote to allow the declaration, but as expected, a Democrat majority carried the day.

        However, the bill still must undergo the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate, which is largely controlled by the Republican Party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would usually have the power to block the bill from ever reaching the senate chambers in the first place, rendering it invalid, but due to its high-profile status and attachment to issues of national security, this privilege will not be granted. Thus, the Senate will have a slightly over two weeks to cast their votes, delivering the final verdict on whether or not the bill becomes a law. Early on, Republican senators such as Florida’s Marco Rubio and Maine’s Susan Collins announced opposition to the President’s declaration. According to a FiveThirtyEight running tally, Rubio has otherwise agreed with the president 92.2 percent of the time and Collins, while at a significantly lesser value of 75 percent, still aligned with President Trump the majority of the time. With two fairly loyal senators already flipping on this issue, one must consider that the Senate may indeed pass the bill into a new law. Further backing this, on Monday, March 4th, Mitch McConnell predicted that the Senate would indeed vote to pass the bill through. They have until March 15th to do so. McConnell went on to say that the card Trump has dealt scares him and his colleagues; if precedent is set that the president can simply declare a national emergency to get their way under a Republican presidency, it’s entirely possible that a future Democratic president could do the same.

 

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