On Feb. 5, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, sponsored legislation to protect funding for the Great Lakes that she claims would be siphoned off by President Trump to build a physical wall along the southern border. The bill was a preemptive response to a declaration of a national emergency President Trump announced on Friday after failing to corral Congress into funding a wall.
Stabenow’s bill, the RAIDER Act of 2019, seeks to prevent the president from using funds from the Army Corps of Engineers and Military Construction accounts to finance a border wall without the permission of Congress. According to the National Emergencies Act, these agencies contain the funds that are most at risk of being redirected under a national emergency.say
In a press release published by Stabenow’s office, she claims that construction of a border wall would reduce funds for “vital Michigan infrastructure priorities.”
“An emergency declaration by President Trump would divert critical funding away from Michigan,” Stabenow wrote. “Our bill would make sure that Michigan priorities like the Soo Locks, dredging of our harbors, and stopping Asian carp aren’t zeroed out for President Trump’s unnecessary wall.”
Public Policy junior Katie Kelly, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, echoed Stabenow’s statements and called President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency a “disgrace.”
“President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency is a disgrace to our nation,” Kelly wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “There is no crisis at our border, this national emergency is the decision of a president who has not gotten his way in Congress. We should be focusing our resources on providing health care for all, the environment, education, the opioid crisis, or any other actual emergencies in our country”
However, it is unclear if President Trump’s border wall would take funds away from the Army Corps or Military Construction accounts. LSA sophomore Dylan Berger, president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans and columnist for The Michigan Daily, said Stabenow’s bill is unnecessary since Trump never claimed he would use the money for Great Lakes projects to build his border wall.
“The RAIDER bill was meant to protect against using that pot of money for border security, and I support the premise of that idea,” Berger said. “However, Senator Stabenow doesn’t need to worry, because the Trump administration has said that they’re not gonna use the money for the Great Lakes for border security. So I think it’s unnecessarily antagonistic, because that money is not at jeopardy.”
Kelly acknowledged the White House never claimed to take money from the Great Lakes to fund a wall. However, she said Stabenow’s bill is proactive in case the administration changes its mind.
“Even though the White House is saying that taking money from the Army Corps is not on the table, you cannot trust this administration,” Kelly said. “I give Senator Stabenow a lot of credit for being proactive and protecting the interests of the people of Michigan.”
Some have called into question whether the declaration of a national emergency, specifically for a border wall, is constitutional. According to Kenneth Lowande, assistant professor of political science and expert on the role of the chief executive, the declaration itself is constitutional, but whether a border wall constitutes a national emergency is up for debate.
“Generally, the question of whether the emergency declaration itself is constitutional, is overemphasized by news organizations and by people criticizing it, because there is a specific statute that authorizes the president to declare a national emergency, it does not define what a national emergency is,” Lowande said. “The relevant question is whether the courts are going to weigh in and decide that the present situation is not a national emergency, it’s something they’ve never done before.”
Lowande said the national emergency itself exemplifies considerable discretion bestowed upon the executive branch.
“When it comes to a lot of the things that President Trump does on his own, when he’s acting unilaterally, most of the time he’s relying on statutory authority that delegates presidents broad discretion,” Lowande said. “So, what the American people are witnessing right now is the consequences of giving presidents broad discretion, and they haven’t had to deal with that in a long time, because presidents have selectively taken advantage of those statutes.”
Trump’s inability to convince Congress to fund a border wall caused a 35-day federal shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refused to negotiate any financing for a border wall, which Trump sought before refunding the government. He eventually decided the political cost of the shutdown was too great, instead deciding to bypass legislators by declaring a national emergency.