Stepping outside the rank and file

Watertown Daily News

March 3

Being a loyal member of the GOP on Capitol Hill doesn’t mean you always have to agree with the president.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, demonstrated that Tuesday by officially disapproving of a recently enacted national emergency. She joined 244 of her colleagues in voting for a resolution to block President Donald Trump’s decision to bypass Congress in constructing a wall on our border with Mexico.

“While I continue to be a strong supporter of securing our border, I believe the president declaring a national emergency that will take funding from our country’s military construction projects is the wrong decision,” Ms. Stefanik said in a statement. “For this reason, I voted in support of today’s resolution disapproving of the national emergency with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. As a constitutional conservative, I consistently criticized President Obama’s executive overreach. No matter what party is represented in the White House, I will stand up against executive action that circumvents Congress. I will continue to negotiate in good faith to fully fund securing the border, and I urge my Democrat colleagues to commit to doing the same.”

On Feb. 14, legislators passed a long-overdue appropriations bill. It included $1.375 billion for a 55-mile wall along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Mr. Trump signed the legislation, thus avoiding another partial government shutdown.

Both the president and congressional Democrats appeared to blink with the agreement. Mr. Trump previously demanded $5.7 billion for his proposed barrier; Democrats offered more than $1 billion for border security measures but said they would not authorize any funds for a wall. So the spending plan reflected compromises on all sides — just how the legislative process is supposed to work.

On Feb. 15, however, Mr. Trump went ahead with his threats to declare a national emergency. The federal law allowing this authorizes the president, in part, to divert funds from some government construction projects to others in support of the military’s response to the emergency.

The legality of Mr. Trump’s declaration has been challenged in court. His rationale for taking this executive action is dubious.

While campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Trump claimed that Mexico has a trade advantage over the United States. He also said illegal immigrants hurt U.S. citizens by taking away jobs and bringing drugs into the country.

But declaring a national emergency is an odd position. Mr. Trump has crowed over how economic conditions have improved since he took office — as well he should. Many more Americans have found gainful employment.

But he can’t have it both ways. Either he has a reason to tout the economy’s robust performance, or illegal immigrants are harming the jobs situation to the extent that it’s become a national emergency.

The number of people crossing our southern border has been steadily declining for years. And his own federal agencies have reported that most drugs come into the United States through authorized ports of entry, not through the gaps between them.

Mr. Trump’s declaration is a bad policy and sets a dangerous precedent. Let’s recall that he initially said Mexico would pay for the wall, but his declaration shows this to be yet another empty campaign promise.

Ms. Stefanik distinguished herself by being the only Republican from New York to support Tuesday’s resolution. This shows her independent judgment and consistency in upholding the principle of limited government.

There are better ways to secure our border, and Ms. Stefanik has discussed these options. She has shown the value of her leadership in Congress by acting in the nation’s best interest rather than merely toeing a party line.