For the eight years of the Obama presidency, many conservatives were rightly outraged by the free use of executive orders by President Obama on everything from the environment to immigration policy. Obama constantly bypassed Congress to implement his agenda, endangering the constitutional balance of powers while ruling more like a king than a democratically elected president.
Now, Donald Trump is mulling the use of his executive authority to declare a national emergency on the border in order to build his wall.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is not convinced that would be a good idea.
The Florida Republican contended that Trump was elected on the promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the president has to “keep that promise.” But “we have to be careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power,” he added. “I’m not prepared to endorse that right now.”
Such a declaration would set a precedent, Rubio said. “If today, the national emergency is border security … tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.” Declaring a national emergency, which would certainly face legal hurdles, could give Trump the ability to use the military to build the wall instead of getting Congress to approve the funding for it.
Indeed, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air points out that Rubio’s warning about some Democratic president declaring a “national emergency” on climate change may be a bit of a stretch, but plenty of damage could still be done.
A climate-change emergency declaration might be enough to, say, void all oil and gas exploration/extraction leases on federal land, which is handled through the executive branch. That would put one hell of a dent in our production capabilities, and there might be more ways in which a White House could act under emergency powers to force an end to the use of fossil fuels for energy. When setting unusual precedents, it’s tough to foresee how all of the consequences will unfold. Just ask Chuck Schumer.
No one doubts that it’s far more difficult today for a president to get Congress to do anything. Rabid partisanship has made compromise on any issue impossible.
The last two presidents came to power as the political center evaporated and the willingness of the two parties to govern disappeared. Rubio’s warning is appropriate. Congress is becoming irrelevant. And as long as the bases of both parties are in charge, presidents will continue to exercise power without their approval.