Staff Editorial

Iowa Republicans must resist Trump's overreach

President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border while speaking about border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 15, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border while speaking about border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 15, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Donald Trump is flouting the democratic process with his emergency declaration to fund border security projects beyond what’s been approved by Congress. His plan demands harsh scrutiny from our elected leaders.

We are encouraged to see some Republicans questioning the move, although the response from the three Iowa Republicans in federal office is wanting.

Rep. Steve King issued a statement the same day Trump made the declaration to say he supports it. Sen. Chuck Grassley said last week he wished Trump “wouldn’t have done it,” according to Politico, but said the courts will decide whether the president has the authority.

Sen. Joni Ernst wrote in a statement to The Gazette that the Trump declaration “would not be my ideal course of action,” but blamed Democrats for refusing to work with Republicans on “desperately-needed comprehensive border security.”

We recognize some members of Congress, as well as many everyday Iowans, support the substance of Trump’s plan to erect more barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. We acknowledge Trump is sometimes criticized for taking actions other presidents have taken.

But make no mistake, this emergency declaration is a particularly egregious case of executive overreach.

Yes, previous presidents have imposed emergency orders and sidestepped Congress in various other ways. Yet this situation is unique because lawmakers gave Trump’s border wall proposal thorough consideration and opted to stop short of the full request. The legislature, not the executive, dictates spending under the Constitution.

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Congress could block Trump’s declaration through a simple majority vote in each chamber, although a two-thirds majority would be needed to override a presidential veto that would undoubtedly follow.

Only 19 Senate Republicans have outright said they support Trump’s declaration, according to an unofficial whip count by FiveThirtyEight. A number of others, like Grassley, have stopped short of firm opposition. So a veto-proof majority in the Republican-controlled Senate is no sure thing, but legislators must at least attempt to assert their rightful authority.

For Republicans, the undesirable consequences of Trump’s unilateral actions should be obvious.

For one, Trump’s plan could carelessly draw funds away from duly appropriated funding priorities. Perhaps more concerning, Democrats running for president already have signaled they might explore the use of emergency declarations for their own policy priorities, such as addressing gun violence and climate change.

Trump’s emergency declaration is a hazardous precedent to set. It is imperative for Congress to uphold our constitutional checks and balances.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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