March 14, 2019

Cardin Says Congress Had No Choice But to Vote to End the President’s Unlawful National Emergency Declaration

“Congress has a responsibility to rein in the president’s abuse of power, in order to maintain the proper separation of powers and checks and balances under our Constitution.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke from the Senate floor prior to Senate approval of a resolution terminating the president’s national emergency declaration for the southern border. The resolution was approved by a 59-41 bipartisan majority. Excerpts of his remarks follow.

“I rise in strong opposition to President Trump’s so-called ‘emergency declaration’ of a crisis and invasion at our southern border, and attempt to misappropriate funds to build the president’s border wall. The president’s actions are an affront to the constitution and separations of powers – our checks and balances, and congressional power of the purse to set appropriations levels.

“The very nature of how President Trump decided finally to declare a so-called emergency at our southern border shows how he, too, knows that there is no real national emergency at our southern border. President Trump admitted, in announcing this so-called emergency in the Rose Garden, that: ‘I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this.  But I'd rather do it much faster.’

“It doesn’t sound like a national emergency.

“We know that a medieval border wall would be a tremendously wasteful expenditure of resources, as opposed to smarter border security technology that would enhance screening at our ports of entry and specifically target transnational criminal operations smuggling contraband into the United States.

“The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power of the purse. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 provides: ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.’ Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 provides: ‘The Congress shall have power to…provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.’

“Additionally, the Presentment Clause of the Constitution requires that the President either approve or veto a bill, and does not give him the power to change the text of a law or appropriations level, or to cast a ‘line item veto’ for certain provisions.  The Constitution provides: ‘Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.  If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with Objections to that House in which is shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.’”

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“Beyond the legal challenges in court to the president’s emergency declaration, Congress has a responsibility to rein in the president’s abuse of power, in order to maintain the proper separation of powers and checks and balances under our Constitution.  Former Republican members of Congress recently wrote a powerful open letter to Republican Members of Congress on this issue.  Signatories include former Senators John Danforth, Mickey Edwards, Chuck Hagel, Jim Kolbe, Olympia Snowe, and Richard Lugar.

“Let me quote from this letter:  ‘Our oath is to put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president…The power of the purse rests with Congress…if you allow a president to ignore Congress,  it will be not your authority but that of your constituents that is deprived of the protections of true representative government.’”

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“In addition to what was said in that letter, it’s important to reiterate that Congress has made appropriations. We expect those appropriations to be carried out. In my own state of Maryland, we have many military construction contracts on many of the military installations that could be put in jeopardy by the president’s actions. Maryland is the proud home of major military installations, including Pax River and Indian Head, Joint Base Andrews, Fort Detrick, Aberdeen Proving Ground. It is Congress’ responsibility to make appropriations and if my colleagues were to let this emergency action go forward that responsibility would be compromised by the President of the United States. He would be denying the people of this country their representative government.

“Congress should therefore take all necessary action to overturn this unlawful presidential declaration. Instead of trying to raid funds that have been designated for critical military construction, environmental projects, the president should work with Congress to enact comprehensive reform.”