No, You Cannot Declare Emergency to Build Wall That Public Doesn’t Want and Isn’t Needed

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Of all the constitutional norms that this president has upset, this, ultimately, may be the most significant. And it is this innovation that the Republicans especially should check. For do they now concur in the precedent that a president has the constitutional authority to insist upon whatever policy he likes, regardless of its support in the public? If a Democrat were elected on the promise to establish single-payer healthcare, does she then have the moral authority to shut down the government until Congress nationalizes the insurance industry? Or directly regulates pharmaceuticals? If she were elected on the promise to address climate change, can she stop the ordinary functioning of government until Congress passes a carbon tax?

Of course not, Lessig concludes: “The American constitution does not contemplate such presidential unilateralism.”

If there was money that Trump could use to build a wall, many experts agree it will likely come from undesignated Pentagon funds. But speaking with NBC News, Matt Dallek, professor at Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and an expert in presidential power, said that Trump can “declare some kind of national emergency, but what it would allow him to do legally is a totally different question.”

As the Trump’s intransigence continues—and after admitting behind closed doors that he could not submit to the Democrat’s demands because it would make him “look foolish” if he did—NBC News reports on how the concrete impacts are being increasingly felt by those federal workers locked out of working or working without pay.

Discussing the issue on MSNBC on Saturday afternoon, legal scholar and former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman said that her reading of the relevant statute is that while Trump has some authority to declare a national emergency, as Dallek noted, this doesn’t qualify as one of those times and that the president has no authority to re-direct money already appropriated by Congress for other purposes towards his wall.

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