How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Why the Border Wall Now?

Why all of a sudden is President Trump fixated on erecting a border wall on our southern border when there is not a scintilla of evidence that we are being flooded by hoards of illegal immigrants entering from Mexico? What changed since the President launched his campaign for the presidency three and a half years ago? Why was he willing to shut down the government over something that he could have gotten fairly easily during the first two years of his presidency when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress?

The answer rests with the power of a handful of conservative political pundits – notably Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh -- who went after President Trump with a vengeance when he indicated he would accept the compromise bill Congress passed in December. Coulter on her podcast said that Trump “would become a joke presidency that scammed the American people if he didn’t construct the wall.” She added that “he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.” Trump was, no doubt, petrified that his base would leave him.

For those who think what I’m suggesting is too simplistic, let’s look at the facts. The Republicans were prepared to use the budget reconciliation process, allowing the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority, not the sixty vote requirement to repeal and replace Obamacare. They successfully used this approach to pass the massive tax cut that benefits the wealthy and punishes blue states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

There is little question that in 2017 the President had significant political capital among Republicans to have gotten $5.7 billion for the border wall.

Instead of focusing on the wall, the Trump team opted to focus on Supreme Court justices confirmations and regulatory rollbacks that ensured that big money will be in his corner in 2020. Now, in order to accomplish anything, Trump will require securing 60 votes in the Senate. This is a totally unrealistic threshold unless it is an issue like criminal justice reform where Democrats are ideologically simpatico with Republicans.

With Democrats holding steady on their opposition to providing $5.7 billion for his wall, the only alternative the President had was to sign a compromise omnibus spending bill that would keep the government open and funded $1.375 for a 55-mile border barrier. The funding for the wall was slightly less than the $1.6 billion and 65 miles barrier the Senate Homeland Security Committee voted out of committee last summer. The President announced that he would sign this compromise bill but would declare a national emergency and attempt to sidestep Congress and use funds allocated for other purposes for the wall construction.

By securing wall funding in this way, which is outside the normal appropriation process, the President has the funds to start construction on his wall. Democrats in Congress and others will challenge the President’s emergency action in the courts. There is an issue as to whether members of Congress have the legal standing because the National Emergencies Act of 1976 does not provide a clear definition of what an “emergency” is.

Declaring a fake “national emergency” and proceeding with the building the wall, despite Congress’s explicit refusal to appropriate fund, will provide a forum for President Trump to continue to declare untruthfully, that the southern border is a “pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin along, 90 percent of which floods across our southern border.”

The facts that the bulk of the drugs that are smuggled into the United States don’t physically come across the border but rather come through legal ports of entry or through tunnels will not be mentioned. The President will not point out that a border wall will do absolutely nothing to block the flow of fentanyl, a pain killer that addiction experts say is the “next, more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic.” Most high-grade fentanyl enters our country either directly from China or through Canada from China.

Nor will the President acknowledge that the reason the federal government was shut down and 800,000 federal employees furloughed was not because the Democrats are opposed to border security. In fact, they repeatedly offered billions in funding for a host of border security measure including lighting, surveillance devices and fortified fencing, what they do oppose is the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. Similarly, President Trump will conveniently forget to mention that he took responsibility for the partial government shutdown. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you [Democrats] for it,” he said.

I sincerely hope that the courts, at all levels, will oppose the President’s attempt to declare a national emergency over something that is clearly not a national emergency. The President’s sidestepping of Congress is a huge power grab of Congress’s power to appropriate funds. Redirecting money without explicit Congressional authorization is clearly a perversion of the principle of separation of powers that divides responsibilities among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has urged the President to reconsider the move, citing the importance of checks and balance and pointing out that the action could set a dangerous precedent regarding Congress’s power.