President Trump called the Democrats’ bluff Friday when he dramatically declared a national emergency in order to get his flagship wall project funded. A day after signing a compromise spending bill to break the deadlock and avert the threat of another government shutdown, the president announced that he’s treating the funding issue as a crisis and taking an end run around it. Democrats (and even some Republicans) have promised to fight the move, but for now, Trump has the ball and he’s running with it.
Since the start of this year, our government has been basically deadlocked over funding for the new border barrier. President Trump wants to carry out his promise to build a wall along our southern border; the Democrats want to stop him by refusing to authorize the money needed to pay for it. With a Dem majority in the House, they’ve been able to do that — until now.
- After weeks of negotiation, Congress came up with a compromise spending bill. This allocates $1.3 billion for border security — not necessarily for a wall, and in any case, well short of the $5.7 billion the president had asked for.
- The compromise averts the risk of further shutdowns and ensures that everything else the government does is funded. Avoiding another shutdown is a priority for the administration since the last one cost the country almost as much as just the wall. It also inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of government employees.
- What it doesn’t do is allow the government to build the wall. Trump has accepted this as a necessary price of keeping the government going but he hasn’t given up on his promise to keep us secure.
- By declaring an emergency, Trump gains the ability to redirect funding from other government departments and use it for border security. According to the White House, the total freed up by the move should be around $6.6 billion. With the funds already allocated in the budget, this comes to around $8 billion, which is (theoretically) enough to get the wall built.
- The bulk of the extra money, around $3.6 billion, will be diverted from military construction funds. Another $2.5 billion will come from DoD counter-drug budgets. Of course, the wall will be a major barrier to drug traffickers in its own right.
- Democrats and some Republicans immediately protested; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the declaration of an emergency was unlawful and promised to fight it. The battle to build the wall is far from over, but the president clearly isn’t planning to give up anytime soon.