Whatever your position is on President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order get the wall on the southern border built, one thing is clear: Democrats denouncing this decision are absolute hypocrites.
Barack Obama started his presidency with his party controlling both houses of Congress. The moment the GOP took back the House, Obama decided he was unwilling to work on compromise legislation to achieve his agenda, and instead repeatedly threatened to enact his agenda unilaterally. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” he said in January 2014. And he followed through on that threat, even on issues such as immigration. Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs via executive action, essentially giving amnesty to illegal immigrants without the consent of Congress.
Back then, Democrats in Congress loved it when Obama abused his power to alter immigration law without their consent. In May 2014, Sen. Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) warned Republicans in Congress that “if they don’t pass immigration reform… the president will have no choice but to act on his own.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Is this not the same thing Trump has been saying regarding wall funding? But now, Democrats are pretending to be appalled at the very notion of using executive powers, when all Trump is trying to do is enforce existing immigration law and protect our national security interests.
Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that @realDonaldTrump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 14, 2019
Trump is declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress, to build a wall we don’t need, to address a crisis that doesn’t exist, by claiming an authority he doesn’t have.
If that sounds like nonsense, it’s because it is. It’s also plainly unconstitutional.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 14, 2019
This is a complete reversal of their previous positions on the use of executive powers when Obama was the one who had such powers. Except, when they supported the use of executive powers under Obama, it actually was an abuse of power. Obama often unilaterally determined that items on his agenda were in the national interest, and therefore justified bypassing Congress and using executive action. Democrats had no problem with it because they wanted amnesty and the boatloads and caravan loads of Democrat votes that potentially come with it. But, make no mistake, they were advocates of executive action when it was absolutely unconstitutional. Particularly in the case of DACA and DAPA, he went specifically against the will of Congress, whereas Trump is merely using his authority to move forward with something Congress has previously consented to. As Sean Davis at The Federalist notes, in this case, Trump is well within his authority:
Yet, now we have Nancy Pelosi issuing her own threat that the next Democrat president could declare a national emergency in order to enact gun control. Apparently, she thinks a president can unilaterally rewrite the Second Amendment. Let’s say that happens. What’s the next domino to fall? The next Republican president would then feel emboldened to declare a national emergency and outlaw abortion. How does that sound, Nancy?
Sadly, this situation is a direct result of Obama’s unchecked lawlessness for eight years. Democrats clapped and cheered for Barack Obama when he said, “If Congress won’t act, I will” and expect Donald Trump not to play the card his predecessor dealt him. But, as I noted, Trump has precedent on his side, whereas Barack Obama didn’t.
If Democrats don’t want Republican presidents to use their legal executive authority to get their agenda enacted, they shouldn’t be cheering for it, or threatening future uses of it, under Democrat presidents. We are not a nation of laws with an “ends justify the means” approach to lawmaking.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis