Trump is trapped, which makes him really dangerous. His rally promise of a Wall became the one promise his base wants him to keep, and his base is essentially the only group of people that Trump wants to keep happy.
He already shut down the government once to get a Wall, and since that gambit failed, it is looking increasingly likely that he’ll call a national emergency. I’ve included some links at the end of this post that discuss what his powers are in a national emergency, and what will happen legally if he does declare one. But in the present moment, let’s look at what Nancy Pelosi is doing in this moment of great danger.
Nancy Pelosi’s Move
Under the National Emergencies Act, each chamber of Congress can pass a resolution to end a national emergency declared by the president. If one chamber passes it, the other chamber is forced to vote to support it or oppose it.
Translation: Pelosi can pass a resolution in the House to end Trump’s national emergency. McConnell is forced to have the Senate vote to support it or not within a month’s time (approximately). If the Senate supports the House’s resolution, Trump’s national emergency ends but both Trump and his rabid base will be furious. If the Senate doesn’t support the House’s resolution, all of those Republicans will be ON THE RECORD as supporting a national emergency to build a Wall that a solid majority of voters have said they don’t want.
Trump has the legal power to declare a national emergency. Declaring a national emergency to essentially take money appropriated by Congress for another purpose to build the Wall is an obvious violation of the separation of powers. As one of Pelosi’s aides said, “The House will vigorously challenge any declaration that seeks an end run around Congress’s power of the purse.”
The only group that can possibly persuade Trump not to declare a national emergency is the Senate Republicans. Pelosi understands this, and so she’s signaling her willingness to pass this resolution to put maximum pressure on the GOP who desperately don’t want to be put in this position. Perhaps they can stop Trump from declaring one.
Essential Reading about National Emergencies
50 U.S. Code Chapter 34 – National Emergencies or the more readable Wikipedia version
What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency
Trump Is Destroying His Own Case for a National Emergency
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Let’s hope they talk him out of it. Yeesh…
Ultimately, if he pushes forward with a national emergency, the Democrats will sue. The Wall will be tied up in litigation forever.