By Jon Dougherty
Lawmakers who voted last week to block President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border will have a tough legal hurdle to overcome after a Friday statement by Attorney General William Barr.
Following Congress’ rejection of the president’s declaration, POTUS issued his first veto on Friday, claiming authority under the law to make the designation.
“Today I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it,” the president said.
Barr, who has a stellar reputation among members of both parties, issued a strong statement in support of the president’s veto, as well as the White House’s conclusion that a true emergency exists at the southwest border:
Mr. President, your declaration of a border emergency on the southern border was clearly authorized under the law, and consistent with past precedent.
As you said, the National Emergencies Act directly authorizes the president—gives broad discretionary authority to the President, to identify and respond to emergent circumstances that require a decisive response. And the humanitarian and security crisis that we have on the border right now, is exactly the kind of emergency that Presidents are permitted to address under the National Emergencies Act.
As you eluded to yourself, over the past 40 years, there have been 59 emergencies declared. And many of these have dealt with political conditions like in Burundi, Sierra Leone, Belarus..
The crisis we’re dealing with today is right on our doorstep and presents a real clear and present danger to the American people. So what you’ve done is solidly grounded in the law and from the standpoint of protecting the American people, it’s imperative.
Political statements by past attorneys general are nothing new but notice that Barr kept to the law here, for the most part. And his mention of emergency declarations in the past — many of which are still in force — dealing with supposed crises far from America’s shores was a masterstroke.
The Republicans who voted to side with Democrats claim the president’s use of the declaration as a means of accessing funds Congress ‘hasn’t authorized’ is completely false. The funds the White House has identified it will use to construct new portions of border fencing and wall have indeed been authorized by Congress, but not for anything specific. They are “discretionary” funds and Congress passes funding bills containing discretionary spending authorizations every single year.
Also, GOP worries that a future Democratic president would use an emergency declaration to advance a political objective — say, to address “gun violence” — are also unfounded because a future Democrat president may flout the law anyway, as Obama was prone to do.
Besides, there would not have been any need for President Trump to declare a national emergency if Congress had stepped up and enacted legislation ending loopholes in immigration and asylum laws, which are now seen as the primary drivers behind mass efforts to enter the U.S. illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security notes, “[S]mugglers, smugglers, human traffickers, and nefarious actors know our loopholes well and continue to exploit them. To truly keep the American people safe, we must end legal loopholes that have left us with policies that serve as tremendous magnets for illegal immigration.”
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