Twelve Republican senators broke ranks with President Donald Trump, voting for a resolution to oppose the emergency declaration he wants to fund his border wall.
Sen. Ben Sasse publicly railed against the emergency declaration, so his decision to back it when it came to a vote dismays the Journal Star editorial board.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants the sole authority of appropriating funds to Congress. The president’s emergency declaration circumvents that by diverting monies for a purpose not approved by the legislative branch. Such a maneuver defies the principle of checks and balances vital to our Constitution, which ensures one branch doesn’t gain outsized power.
Furthermore, the move sets a problematic precedent.
Future presidents can turn to emergency declarations to all but remove Congress from the appropriations process for pet projects. While this move may suit Republicans now, they’d no doubt howl if a future Democratic president used the same tactic.
Our politicians seem to have forgotten that when the majority party bends the rules, the minority party will no doubt return the favor when it returns to power. An equal and opposite reaction, as Isaac Newton termed it.
Sasse long expressed these same valid concerns.
“We absolutely have a crisis at the border, but as a Constitutional conservative I don’t want a future Democratic President unilaterally rewriting gun laws or climate policy,” he correctly noted in a statement to the National Review. “If we get used to presidents just declaring an emergency any time they can’t get what they want from Congress, it will be almost impossible to go back to a Constitutional system of checks and balances.
He went as far as reportedly visiting the White House the night before Thursday’s vote, where he was said to have urged Trump to change course. Up until the vote, his words and actions deserved praise.
Then, he voted no – after correctly sounding the siren on the consequences.
While he professed support for a bill to rein in the National Emergencies Act in his statement – certainly justifiable – he then deflected blame for his vote. “I think (the act) is overly broad and I want to fix it, but at present Nancy Pelosi doesn't, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution.”
That’s it, huh. Our junior senator has elaborated plenty -- and written a book -- on the need to transcend our partisan divide, yet chose to ridicule Democrats on this consequential constitutional question.
Sen. Deb Fischer announced her vote against the resolution earlier in the week. That choice was at least consistent with her previous statements.
The 12 Republican senators who bucked party leadership to make the right call came from states red and blue alike. They displayed the independence to vote for their ideals over their party.
Unfortunately, we’re unable to say the same about Sasse. He talked a good game but didn't follow through when it counted.