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Aid Vs. Aide : National Emergencies in the Age of Trump

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Is Trump’s “Emergency” really an outlier?

President Trump declared the emergency on Friday to reroute billions of dollars to fund the creation of his long promised border wall. This, after Congress passed a bill that allocated $1.375 billion for its construction. With this emergency, Trump plans to allocate $8 billion to the wall, as well as $3.6 billion in military construction funds, and taking an additional $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense. 

Presidents who claim National Emergencies rely on various moves and powers provided by Congress. Congress has long been the core source of emergency authority for the executive branch. Congress can pass laws to give the president wiggle room during military, economic, health, and labor issues. 

In 1976, The National Emergencies Act was passed. It basically ended all previous national emergencies, and formally bestowed emergency powers to the president. 

The White House has contended that the maneuver is a commonplace one and needed to skirt gridlock . According to the Brennan Center for Justice, presidents have declared national emergencies 60 times, including Trump.

The common National Emergency consists of these elements:

  • prohibiting unlawful trade and exporting
  • regulating/blocking/isolating bad actors
  • Emergency aid 

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Sixteen states have filed a lawsuit in a Northern California federal court against President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, in it, contending that the executive power to fund a border wall unconstitutional.

These 16 states argue that the Emergency Act is unconstitutional because it’s separating money and power from the states. In a recent widely covered speech, Trump acknowledged this legal hurdle with his sing-song break down:

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This scenario is unique due to a National Emergency being linked to a  rallying cry, and campaign promise. 

Is it unconstitutional? 

All roads lead to the Supreme Court—where the party line suits Trump.


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