As President Trump considers declaring a national emergency as a face-saving way to get out of the government shutdown impasse, some conservatives are expressing concern that such a move would set a troubling precedent regarding executive authority — one that a future Democratic president could use to push liberal priorities on, say, climate change or health care.
Here’s a sampling of those concerns from the Right:
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: “He’s probably right that he has the legal authority, but it would set a bad precedent that conservatives who believe in the separation of powers could live to regret. … A wall would cost tens of billions of dollars and take years to build, yet it would neither fix the immediate challenges at the border nor longer-term problems with the immigration system. … If Mr. Trump did win in court, a President Elizabeth Warren might take the precedent as license to circumvent Congress whenever it is politically expedient. Rising carbon emissions or even income inequality could be declared national emergencies.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): “Tomorrow, the national security emergency might be, you know, climate change, so let’s seize fossil fuel plants or something. Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but my point is, we’ve got to be very careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power in our republic.”
The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein: “Conservatives egging on Trump to declare an emergency should be careful of what they wish for. There are very low odds that the strategy succeeds in getting a wall built and too much of a risk that it badly backfires in the long run.”
National Review Editors: “It’s an offense against the spirit of our system for a president to fail to get he wants from Congress — in a dispute involving a core congressional power, spending — and then turn around and exploit a tenuous reading of the law to try to get it anyway.”
National Review’s Jonah Goldberg: “Do we really want to establish the precedent that the president can simply declare ‘It’s an emergency’ like some magical incantation and then completely bypass property rights and the will of Congress just so he can fulfill a campaign promise that, if Sam Nunberg is to be believed, began as a consultant’s gimmick to get the candidate Trump to talk about immigration and what a great builder he is?”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): “I don’t want the next national emergency to be that some Democrat president says we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America.”