Editorial: At least one Kansas senator stood up to Trump, stood up for Congress

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

At least one wall has been built. Twelve Republican senators — including, most notably to us, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas — have built a wall between themselves and President Trump’s threats and rhetoric.

The 12 Republican senators made a vote against the president’s wishes when they supported a resolution that would nullify Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border to control illegal immigration.

The resolution now has passed the Senate and the House, but there aren’t enough votes to override a Trump veto.

If you remember, Trump’s national emergency declaration isn’t so much about a wall to keep illegal immigrants out as much as it is about building a wide door for the presidency to get a steamroller into the halls of Congress. Trump sought funding for a wall through the proper appropriations process, but Congress denied the funds along partisan lines. Trump then proceeded to act like he was the first president to ever have an opposition party deny him something he really wants. Trump’s solution has been to steamroll the crucial Constitutional authority of Congress to control the government’s purse strings.

It was good that a dozen Republican senators said that was a step too far. Moran deserves credit for making the vote. Kansas’ other Republican senator, Pat Roberts, deserves questions about why such a long-serving member of Congress — who certainly understands the important role that institution plays in our republic — would acquiesce to such a presidential demand. For heaven’s sake, Roberts doesn’t even have to get re-elected. He’s already announced he is retiring.

Trump basically has promised to make it tough on any Republican senator who voted to deny his emergency declaration. “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime and the Open Border Democrats!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The 12 senators could just as easily argue that a vote against the amendment is a vote for Pelosi and Democrats who keep score. It will be a minor miracle if a future Democratic president doesn’t feel emboldened to bypass a Republican Congress on some spending measure. Today we flirt with a constitutional crisis. Tomorrow, we’ll probably put a ring on its finger.

Trump’s threats must have worked, though. Only one Republican Senator facing re-election next year, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted for the resolution.

Perhaps the Supreme Court, led by a Chief Justice who does seem intent on protecting that institution’s independence, will intervene. But it is not entirely clear that it would or should. The national emergency act that Trump used intentionally does not do much to define an emergency. Instead, it trusted that the U.S. Congress would step in and nullify any action made by a president who would dare use the act to play political games.

But the act was written in a different political age — 1976 — when Congress still contained the necessary number of bricks to build a wall to protect its constitutional authority.

Today, Congress is short on bricks, but has a more than ample supply of putty.


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