Editorial: All should fear precedent set by political definition of 'emergency'
Some people may oppose President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency on immigration because it sidesteps the Constitution's explicit assignment of spending powers to Congress, not the president.
Some people may oppose the declaration because in order to keep a political promise that couldn't be achieved through the political process, it cynically makes use of powers that are supposed to exist only for exceptional circumstances.
Some people may oppose the declaration because it smacks of authoritarianism and throws democratic principles to the curb.
Some people may oppose it because by definition, an emergency is a circumstance so dire that there is no time to debate an appropriate course of action, and the need for a border wall with Mexico clearly has been a source of debate for years.
Some people may oppose it because illegal immigration is demonstrably on the decline and the facts about immigration from the president's own administration do not support claims that it poses a serious threat to the nation's safety or at least they leave those claims open to question.
Some people may oppose it simply because all these things together add up to an egregious abuse of presidential power.
But there is one reason for which all people should condemn the declaration of an immigration emergency, and it's one that should send shivers through even the president's most ardent supporters. For, the precedent President Trump has set puts the bar for defining "emergency" so low that future presidents may feel emboldened to invoke emergency powers for whatever political end they may conceive.
Democrats already are saying that if illegal immigration can be declared a national emergency, surely a similar case could be made regarding gun violence. What about other issues? Steps to fight, say, the emergency caused by the effects of climate change? Affixing minimum-wage rates, perhaps, to combat the scourge of poverty? Elimination of privacy protections to fight burgeoning opioid dependency? Addressing the health crisis with the imposition of Medicare for all?
The potential for others to compound President Trump's abuse of emergency powers with other abuses is almost endless.
The declaration on immigration is certain to be fought in the courts. Opponents have already reported plans to challenge it. So, we may well soon see whether a court packed with avowed constitutional conservatives will put the clear words of the constitution first or political objectives.
If it becomes the latter and the precedent is established that a president can declare anything to be an emergency that he or she can summon the political support to justify, the state of our democratic republic is in grave danger.
And that is something everyone in America -- certainly every member of Congress the action would circumvent -- should oppose.