Updated: Aug 24, 2019
By JOSH DAVIS
On February 15th President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, citing an increased number of illegal immigrants and drugs crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico, despite a lack of evidence to support this claim. The declaration came less than a day after a funding bill was passed by Congress that both ended the government shutdown and allocated 1.7 billion dollars towards border security measures. That amount is significantly less than the $25 billion the President has requested from Congress to fulfill his campaign promise of building a “border wall”, and is also less than the $5.7 billion Congress had previously offered before the government shutdown.
President Trump sees this declaration as a means to bypass congress to secure funding for the border wall, saying,“I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress (and in particular the House of Representatives) is intended to have the “power of the purse”, and many political commentators, congresspeople, and legal experts have stated that the President’s use of a national emergency declaration to secure funding for the wall infringes on Congress’s control of purse strings. Mimi Rocah, a legal analyst with NBC news, spoke about the legality of the emergency declaration, "Trump made his argument, and the job of lawyers trying to convince courts that he has, in fact, declared a legitimate national emergency, much more difficult," Rocah said that Trump's line about not having to make the declaration was "the clincher" for demonstrating that there is not an emergency at the southern border.
Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, Presidents are legally authorized to declare national emergencies as a mechanism to move funds quickly to affected areas, but this authority has typically been used previously only during armed conflict situations abroad and during natural emergencies domestically, and never as a way to directly subvert Congress’s authority. Trump doing so very well open the door for future Presidents, of any party affiliation, to do the same for a wide variety of reasons.