Pundits haven’t yet fully connected the dots in front of them. Yes, presidential use of national emergency powers to spend money on things that Congress chose not to authorize is against Article 1 of the Constitution. That’s a serious challenge to democracy. Our Republic will be weaker if the emergency declaration is not reversed by the president, Congress, or the Supreme Court.
The declared emergency is only the latest move in a decades-long gradual process of Congress ceded more and more power to the president – primarily war-making but also making or modifying policy. Congressional power over spending was unchallenged, but the latest declared emergency – if accepted by the Supreme Court – would provide a way to get around that. See also our earlier blog on emergency powers.
Here is the other dot. The choice of president became more consequential as the Office of the President became more powerful. This trend explains why election campaigns have been fought ever more viciously – by politicians and citizens alike. The divisions are only worsened by political pandering to polarized bases, gerrymandering, and self-sorting. Note also that policy instability increases too – some policies can change radically as the presidency shifts from one party to the other.
It’s no wonder many Americans are feeling increasingly angry and distrustful.
All of this is reversible: Congress can reclaim its Constitutional powers, party leaders can rediscover inclusive big-tent politics, state leaders can delegate redistricting to neutral technical committees, politicians can choose to do the hard work of solving problems instead of dividing and blaming, and each of us can commit to respecting each other and working with each other as worthy Americans.