Good Friday Morning! It looks like we’re ending the government shutdown, wall funding news cycle. Donald Trump has decided to sign the small deal in Congress and then declare a national emergency. Politico has the stats:
The $328 billion package — which funds one-quarter of the government — is the result of roughly two weeks of frenetic talks between Democratic and Republican negotiators from both chambers. The bill includes $1.37 billion for 55 miles of physical barrier along the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas — far less than the $5.7 billion that the White House had sought.
I’ll get more into the issue of the national crisis below, and thoughts on the end of the shutdown narrative below. Make sure to look for a piece on CI about Amazon’s decision to leave New York — I have an article coming out that looks at that and other NIMBY-style politics. Links follow.
Before that though, I have one brief social media annoyance I’d like to get out of the way: the #GOPTaxScam. People are posting about getting lower tax refunds and claiming they didn’t get lower taxes. I’ve seen several of my liberal friends claim the same — people who should know better. And Democratic Presidential candidates are jumping on it.
That hashtag is a farce.
I was grateful The Washington Post came out and fact-checked Kamala Harris, and the claims overall, saying they’re false. The key paragraphs in their fact check:
“Change in refunds does not equate to change in tax liability, since withholding amounts were adjusted,” said Joseph Rosenberg, senior research associate at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Though few people look at this way, a smaller tax refund means you gave less of a loan to the U.S. government over the course of the year. Ideally, you should end up with no refund or tax due.
If your tax refund is smaller, that’s either because you filed wrong or you paid less in taxes throughout the year. It’s not a #GOPTaxScam — it’s taxpayer stupidity (and some people should know better).
If you wanted to stop all of this ignorance on taxes, then you should end employer tax withholding and make people pay taxes every year. That would stomp out most of this socialism surge in one sweep. The right likes to joke if you did that, you should also combine election and tax day — radically different voting mindsets. People would further understand Cardi B’s amazing tirades on paying taxes (here and here).
End of rant. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
If you missed the scandal of newly elected Democratic House Representative Ilhan Omar, you should read this and news stories of her remarks. She made several anti-Semitic remarks that forced Pelosi and Democrats to demand she deliver an apology. They should follow the Steve King example and strip her of committee assignments — because it’s clear she’s not going to stop.
The Green New Deal is nothing more than a plot device to achieve socialist goals. It’s not about the environment, it’s not about green technology, and it won’t help the United States. It’s just a list of fantasy.
Trump Declares a National Emergency for the Wall
There are a few facets to this wall debacle for the President. Politico has the best summary:
The Senate took action after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dramatically announced Trump’s decision on the floor. McConnell’s pronouncement ended days of uncertainty about whether Trump would sign the bill, or lurch the government into another shutdown.
Trump’s decision will avert a government shutdown Friday, while immediately fueling a fierce battle in the courts and Capitol Hill — a fight that Democrats in Congress say they’re eager to take on.
“He is prepared to sign the bill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, ending days of uncertainty about whether Trump would back the massive funding compromise. “He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.”
The White House quickly confirmed the decision. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump will “take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.”
Trump is expected to sign the compromise bill on Friday before officially issuing an emergency declaration that is likely to divert Army funds to his border wall.
First, on the wall funding, it’s not a win for the President. He knows that, and that’s why we’re getting a “national emergency” declaration on the border. More on the emergency in a moment.
Politically, although this is a loss for the President — he’s getting the least amount of money of any deal he got offered at any point — he’s going to leave the situation mostly unscathed. The worst of the damage politically came during the shutdown, when his approval polls bottomed out below 40% and were feeling further downward pressure. Since then, two things have happened: 1) Democrats took over the news cycle with a slew of terrible stories, and 2) Trump stayed mostly quiet, for him, outside the SOTU speech.
FiveThirtyEight has Trump’s approval back around 42%, and the RealClearPolitics average bounced back to 44%. Trump’s best play, as always, is to let other people and stories dominate the news. When other people appear crazy, people tend to like him more. Trump’s approval ratings seem to have a natural gravitation towards the 42% – 44% range, which isn’t great, but it’s also not terrible.
If I were advising him, I’d tell him to sign the deal and go media silent. The shutdown coverage is gone, and other stories are dominating the news, he gains nothing from stirring up trouble with a questionable national emergency. The wall doesn’t affect his election chances — the 2020 election won’t be about the wall, it’ll be about whether or not Democrats nominate an electable candidate. Trump’s only shot is if Democrats choose a crazy — and that’s possible right now. He helps himself by dropping out of the news cycle.
But he isn’t doing that, and we’re getting a national emergency declaration.
I’m skeptical on this front.
I get the politics. Trump wants to appear tough by forcing the wall to happen, but a national emergency is the single worst option on the table. I don’t know how the courts will handle this, but I’m hoping they rule it unconstitutional. I agree with David French’s analysis here:
Traditionally, the Supreme Court has granted the president an immense amount of deference on matters of national security. While that deference isn’t unlimited (see Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer), as a general matter, courts are reluctant to intervene when the president invokes his powers as commander-in-chief, preferring to leave key national security determinations to the political branches. But if the courts defer here, they’ll set a dangerous precedent. They’ll permit the president to override a comprehensive civilian statutory border-protection scheme in the absence of any armed conflict or event the reasonable prospect of any armed conflict on the southern border.
If the Supreme Court wants to maintain deference in the case of war or the prospect of war, it can still check Trump without doing any damage to the commander-in-chief’s constitutional military authority. There can and should be one degree of deference in the presence or prospect of an armed conflict under international law and lesser deference in the absence of an armed conflict or the prospect of an armed conflict. Otherwise “national security”simply means whatever the president says it means, and it can be invoked at will to enable a host of abuses.
And here’s the most critical aspect of this: If this is ruled constitutional, it means every single President will come into the office, declare random emergencies, and direct the government act accordingly. Democrats would declare national emergencies around the environment, guns, and speech to get what they want. Pelosi even warned as such to Politico:
Inside the White House, several aides have worried that a national emergency declaration will set a dangerous precedent, allowing a future Democratic president to draw on broad executive powers to take action on anything from gun violence to climate change.
Pelosi, who has been locked in a months-long battle with Trump over the border wall, said Democrats will “review our options,” which include a potential lawsuit against the president. Congress could also vote to “turn off” the emergency declaration.
Pelosi said Trump “is trying to make an end run around Congress” by asserting his emergency power to redirect money to the border wall from other programs.
Pelosi also noted that Republicans are uneasy about Trump’s move because a future Democratic president could attempt the same maneuver in dealing with Congress.
“Just think what a president of different values can present to the American people,” Pelosi told reporters. “A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.”
GOP lawmakers have been privately and publicly urging Trump to avoid such a step, fearful that the expansion in powers could propel a future Democratic president to take the same step on climate change or gun violence.
If we have a President that can do whatever he or she wants merely by declaring an emergency, then the American experiment and the Constitution are done. Checks and balances mean nothing when one branch does whatever it wants, without any restraints.
That’s why in a lawsuit, I’m hoping the court system rules against Trump because if it doesn’t, we’ll effectively only have one branch of government: The President, with the other two branches engaging in advisory roles.
I don’t want to deal with a government where the President declares a national emergency around something like “assault weapons,” and immediately starts a federal confiscation program. National emergency powers are for extreme situations like hurricanes and other disasters, where there’s no time for Congress to act. They’re not for governing a nation.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson warned that Americans’ “peculiar security is in the possession of a written constitution; let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” We must follow this advice with our statutes, too, for if we do not we will be complicit in the destruction of the greatest innovation in the history of government. To permit presidents to circumvent quotidian policy disputes by appealing to a phantom Too Important Clause is to tear up James Madison’s Constitution and to sanction an alternative settlement within which any sufficiently frustrated executive is able to delve deep into the statutory well and find a watery justification to get his way. “Emergency,” “crisis,” “prosecutorial discretion” — these words all mean something concrete. If, when things get tough for the president he can always find an Enabling Act somewhere in the forest, then we do not have a system of government at all. We have a dictatorship. How ironic it would be if historians looked back and concluded that the Anglo-American preference for parliament was defeated in the end not by Charles I or James II; not by George III or the Declaratory Acts; and not by the panoply of evil, masquerading isms that stained the last century in blood; but by simple partisanship, which turned us first into sophists, and then, bit by bit, into vandals.
Links of the week
The self-muzzling of the free world – James Kirchick, The Washington Examiner
The job-killers won: Amazon’s decision to pull out of its headquarters deal is a cataclysmic failure of New York’s progressives – The New York Daily News (NY’s most liberal tabloid)
The Green New Deal Would Spend the U.S. Into Oblivion: The environmental parts of the plan would be costly, but manageable. The same can’t be said of its social programs. – Noah Smith, Bloomberg Opinion (liberal columnist)
Myopic Green New Dealers need to look beyond America for a climate cure – Megan McCardle, The Washington Post
The mysterious case of AOC’s scrubbed ‘Green New Deal’ details – The Washington Examiner
Ocasio-Cortez Gaslights ‘Green New Deal’: Office deletes ‘farting cows’ document, adviser pretends it never existed – Elizabeth Harrington, The Washington Free Beacon
The intellectual villainy of calling Winston Churchill a villain – Tom Rogan, The Washington Examiner
El Niño is here: What you need to know – Accuweather (file this away now — watch for ill-informed weather/climate opinions later this year)
Bill Would Make Online Access to Federal Court Records Free – Courthouse News
Virginia Democratic Candidate Apologizes to Jewish Community for Past Statements: Ibraheem Samirah once suggested Israel was worse than the KKK, now he’s running for office in Virginia – Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine
Facebook Group of French Journalists Harassed Women for Years – The New York Times
Democrats’ Leftward Shift Complicating Senate Recruitment: The party landed a top-tier candidate to run in Arizona. The only problem: He’s a former Republican who faces the possibility of a serious primary challenge from the left. – Josh Kraushaar, National Journal
MN Jewish leaders talked with Ilhan Omar about anti-Semitism last year. Why they remain frustrated. – TwinCities Pioneer Press
A Travesty in New York – Rich Lowry, National Review
Ilhan Omar’s Lazy and Anti-Semitic Tweets – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
Oh, FAQ Me – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
America’s Support for Israel Is a Matter of Morality, Not Money – David French, National Review
The Progressive Assault on Israel: A movement that can detect a racist dog-whistle from miles away is strangely deaf when it comes to some of the barking on its own side of the fence. – Bret Stephens, The New York Times
The parking lot suicides: Veterans are taking their own lives on VA hospital campuses, a desperate form of protest against a system that they feel hasn’t helped them. – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, The Washington Post
The dodgy, vulnerable fame of YouTube’s child ASMR stars: Right now, children are filming themselves chewing, whispering and tapping to give their adult audience an ASMR buzz. The Chinese government banned them, and PayPal blocked their payments, yet some still earn thousands. But at what cost? – Amelia Tait, Wired
I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell – Kashmir Hill, Gizmodo
Satire piece of the week
QUEENS, NY — In a video uploaded to his social media accounts Tuesday, local political activist and lobbyist for the abortion industry Mick Landon explained that the Constitution must be treated as a living, evolving document, though he believes the unborn aren’t living in any meaningful sense of the word.
The man who constantly refers to the Constitution as a living document still clings to the unscientific opinion that unborn babies are just unliving parasites, mere “clumps of cells” to be aborted at will, according to his statement.
“See, the Constitution is really alive. We have to allow it to grow and change with the times,” he said, though he believes it’s a woman’s right to stop a child from growing in the womb. “Sure, it doesn’t actually guarantee a right to an abortion in the strictest sense, but we became enlightened around the time of Roe v. Wade and allowed the living document to mature. We’re more progressive now, because we can end the lives of the unborn with impunity.”
Thanks for reading!