Regardless whether one supports or opposes President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, all of us ought to be concerned by his decision to appropriate funding via a declaration of national emergency. Although that decision may, indeed, be perfectly lawful, it sets a terrible precedent for the president to work around, rather than with, Congress. After all, if a Republican president can decide that the situation on the border is an emergency justifying executive overreach, then a Democratic president could apply the same standard to climate change, health care — or guns.

It’s disturbing not just that Trump has decided to use his executive power to accomplish his goals, but also that so few Republicans have offered even the slightest criticism. For a party that frequently criticized Barack Obama for executive overreach, they seem to have completely forgotten the concern now that their party is back in control. On a purely political basis, that’s perfectly understandable: More Republicans agree with what Trump’s doing than what Obama did, so they’re less likely to criticize him. For those of us who are truly concerned about the always-expanding imperial presidency, though, it’s distressing that neither party takes this issue seriously.

That’s why, if you’re opposed to executive overreach no matter who is in office or what the issue is, you should find it heartening that Sen. Susan Collins joined several Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a resolution to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration. Congress has the chance to overturn a presidential emergency declaration every six months, and Collins is right to support holding another vote on the declaration. Regardless of whether one supports or opposes construction of the wall, Trump should have to properly appropriate funds through Congress for it — not simply declare an emergency and get his own way.

In March, the last time the emergency declaration was up for a vote, it got a broad swath of bipartisan opposition, from Republicans like Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, among others. Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome Trump’s veto, and unfortunately the emergency declaration went into effect. Hopefully this time, more Republicans will join them in bucking the White House and re-asserting Congress’ authority over spending.

Rather than commending her bipartisanship, Democrats were busy criticizing her for another recent vote instead. She voted against a Democratic amendment to the defense spending bill that theoretically would have barred spending military money on the wall. It’s important to know that this measure was entirely different from the bill she co-sponsored to stop the emergency declaration. The amendment was your classic poison pill: If it had been attached to the spending bill, the entire legislation could well have failed on the floor. If the defense spending bill failed on the floor, that could immediately imperil the short-term funding for projects — including many in Maine — that weren’t affected by the emergency declaration. It also would have prevented a 3.1 percent pay raise for our troops from going into effect, hurting our service members all over the country and the world.

On a pure policy basis, the Democrats’ amendment would have been biting off your nose to spit your face. The Democrats, of course, knew that and probably didn’t really intend for it to pass in the first place. Instead, it was intended to put political pressure on Senate Republicans, forcing them to choose between funding projects in their home state and angering the president. It was a blatantly political stunt designed to produce attack ads and talking points, and Collins was wise to vote against it.

By opposing the amendment but co-sponsoring the measure to stop the emergency declaration, Collins isn’t being hypocritical — she’s being responsible. She’s ignoring the screaming and yelling coming from both extremes and focusing on doing her real job: governing. Indeed, partisans would be wise to look to her as an example, rather than as a nuisance to be dispatched at the next election.

If Democrats are serious about stopping Trump’s executive overreach, they need to convince more Republicans to work with them, rather than scoring cheap political points against them. Both parties need to work together to rein in the powers of the presidency, no matter who’s in power. Similarly, both parties need to work together on immigration to come to a compromise that both improves security and makes life easier for those coming here legally. Both sides need to work together, and ignoring political stunts to focus on real governing is a good start.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel


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