Trump’s Wall Is Great, But His Method of Funding It Is Not

Nathan Harman

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If we were to think back on what we remember from any of our childhood lessons on the U.S. Constitution, we probably can recall a key phrase that was likely involved: checks and balances. This is one of the primary characteristics of our government’s charter—that no one branch should become too powerful at the expense of the other two. It has protected our freedom for over two centuries now, with only a few lapses along the way. What we have witnessed with the recent declaration of a national emergency by President Trump to redirect funds to building a physical border wall may go down in history as one of those lapses, and we should be careful to note why so that in the future we can correct this. 

To preface this, it is important to note that I am actually in favor of a physical, concrete border wall, which I wrote about just two weeks ago. That argument, however, only focused on the end of building the wall, not the means of how it should be funded. I would love nothing more than to see a wall with all its benefits, but not at the expense of an unbalanced distribution of power between Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. 

Congress was endowed with the power of the purse by the nation’s founders, which is subject to presidential review for either their signature or a veto. This means that the president does not have the power to apportion funds, only the power to approve or deny any plan passed by Congress to do so, which acts as a balance between the executive and legislative branches. 

Now enter the National Emergency President Trump declared last month: Congress denied his request for $5.7 billion for construction of the wall, so his solution is to now circumvent Congress completely to find funding for the wall. This is where we have a problem. Declaring a state of emergency for funding that the legislative branch did not budget is a violation of our crucial checks and balances. 

Beyond simply being a violation of the balance of power in the government, this action opens the door for future presidents to do the same, but for much more devious acts that we are less inclined to agree with compared to a border wall. If President Obama had declared a national emergency to pass anything, we can be sure that Republicans at the time would have roundly criticized it as an overstep of executive power, yet here we are three years later with our Republican legislators sitting by idly, biting their tongues, too afraid to say anything because it would reflect poorly on the party and the president. 

Any U.S. citizen, politician or otherwise, with a healthy respect for our system of power checks should profusely reject this action on the part of the president because of the dire implications for the uneven, long-term power distribution in Washington it has created. This issue transcends party lines because it is our very freedom from a tyranny of any potentially despotic president that is at stake. This freedom is worn away with every failure on the part of legislators or the judiciary to curb rogue power grabs, which is why we as a nation must push them to do so. These checks and balances are more than a bland history topic that we learned as school children, they are a means of preserving our very liberty.