Trump’s border emergency vote shows most Republicans only care about the Constitution when it suits them – Washington Examiner
In 2014, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said, “Signing an executive order, giving a speech, barnstorming around the country defending that executive order is not leadership, the likes of which we practice every day. I would implore the president to reconsider this path.”
Pence was criticizing former President Barack Obama, who five years ago declared his own national emergency on immigration, issuing an executive order that would prevent the deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants, many of them so-called “Dreamers,” or people who had entered the United States illegally as children and had since grown up here.
As Pence noted, Obama did give speeches around the country to rally public support for his order, just as today President Trump holds mass rallies to stress the need for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which he would fund by declaring a national emergency.
Five years ago, Pence said Obama’s executive power grab was “ not leadership.”
Today, the vice president says the president has “an absolute right to declare a national emergency.”
So which is it?
We now know Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky., will oppose Trump’s national emergency declaration in an upcoming Senate vote. He is the fourth Republican senator to indicate his opposition, along with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
“I can’t vote to give extra-constitutional powers to the president,” Paul said in speech delivered at a Republican gathering Saturday night, according to the Bowling Green Daily News. “I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress.”
“We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it,” Paul said. “If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”
It is dangerous. The core beauty of our system of government is the separation of powers, and the institution of checks and balances outlined in the Constitution. Presidents and parties will always be able to find reasons to operate outside legal bounds. We have a Constitution precisely because the Founders recognized this predilection toward accruing power that exists in any government, particularly the executive branch.
It should not surprise anyone that in the wake of Trump’s national emergency declaration, a number of prominent Democrats, including 2020 White House hopefuls, rattled off a list of “national emergencies” they would love to declare, on everything from gun control to climate change.
Almost every Republican would stand against any such executive orders by a Democratic administration. All would cite the Constitution, as they did under Obama, and as Pence once did.
And they would be right.
Paul reportedly brought up Pence’s opposition to Obama’s executive actions during a recent Republican meeting. Pence reportedly tried to explain to Paul how Trump’s executive order is different than Obama’s.
But it’s not.
This is not to say we don’t have a genuine problem on the border. But the process is as important, arguably even more important, than the problem. Under Democratic administrations, Republicans magically see this more clearly. Pence has a long record of supporting immigration reform, which in the past might have put him closer to Obama than Trump on the issue, and yet Pence still saw a problem with Obama’s overreach in 2014.
Paul is not opposed to strengthening border security. He is opposed to achieving this through unconstitutional means. Paul tweeted last month when Trump’s executive order was first introduced:
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., last week was one of only 13 House Republicans to join Democrats in opposing Trump’s national emergency.
If we violate the Constitution to build a wall, then the wall protects nothing.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie)
February 28, 2019
Another House Republican who opposed Trump’s executive order, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., felt similarly:
The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash)
February 23, 2019
At least Paul and a few other Republicans are keeping the constitutional faith. But most of them, many who have dared to call themselves “ constitutional conservatives” in recent years, remind us that the overwhelming majority of Republicans only care about the Constitution when it suits them.
Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the former political editor of Rare.us and co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.