Di Paolo Santalucia
On February 14, 2019, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that President Donald Trump would declare a state of emergency in order to bypass Congress and build additional barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The declaration of national emergency expressed by Donald Trump last Thursday obviously didn’t come out of the blue and was instead the result of ongoing turmoils amongst the American political scene, caused by Mr. Trump’s will to build a large and fortified border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 the federal government was partially shut down due to Trump’s decision to veto any spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for a border wall.
On February 15th the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bipartisan bill, which was created with the intention of keeping the government running at least until September 30, 2019.
Despite the fact that the new funding bill does not grant the funds necessary to build the border wall, President Donald Trump has agreed to sign it to prevent another shutdown, but has also announced a state of national emergency, which gives the President of the United States of America a temporary boost, consisting in more than 100 special provisions that become available to him, until the emergency passes.
Amongst the reasons that induced Trump to declare a state of national emergency, certainly a couple of them stand out. The decision was clearly a reflection of the President’s will of bypassing the limits imposed by the Congress regarding the construction of the border wall and above all a strategic move intended to regain him popularity, in light of the upcoming presidential election of 2020.
Donald Trump’s declaration of the emergency has been received by the public opinion as quite controversial to say the least. A National Public Radio poll has found that more than 6-in-10 Americans do not approve President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency and that nearly 6-in-10 also don’t believe there is an emergency at the southern border and that the President is misusing his presidential authority.
On February 18th a coalition of 16 states, including the State of California and the State of New York, challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use a tool as delicate as the national emergency just to be able to spend billions of dollars on his border wall. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that, since it is Congress the one who has the power of controlling spending, President Trump does not have any right whatsoever to divert funds to build a wall along the Mexican border.
Even though Mr. Trump has said that his declaration is allowed thanks to a 1976 law called the National Emergencies Act, critics of the move, including many Republicans, have argued that while previous uses have involved actual emergencies such as human rights violations, the motives behind Trump administration’s declaration of emergency are rather insufficient.
It is still uncertain how exactly the declaration of emergency will affect Trump’s plan of building the infamous border wall and how this situation will also impact his chances of being re-elected in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections.