After weeks of negotiation between parties produced a compromise government funding-slash-border security plan that was set to pass both houses of Congress, Donald Trump is apparently going to blow everything up again by declaring a national emergency in order to unilaterally begin construction on his vaunted border wall. (The compromise bill includes a relatively small $1.375 billion disbursement for 55 miles of steel border fencing; it looks like Trump is going to sign that bill too, although, you know, things are fluid.)
Many observers have reacted, reasonably, with alarm. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are calling the move, which rests on the flimsy premise that the current state of affairs at the border is a unique and urgent crisis, a “lawless act” and a “gross abuse of the power of the presidency.” Others have pointed out that declaring a random emergency and overriding the legislature whenever it’s convenient is a hallmark of dictatorships around the world.
On the other hand, Trump has often announced plans to do things that never happened because he literally got bored and wandered off to watch TV.
• He outsourced Obamacare repeal to Republican ideologues who came up with a bill so unpopular that they couldn’t pass it despite holding both the House and the Senate. He periodically makes noises about trying repeal again but it never goes anywhere.
• He claimed to be ready last October to eliminate the fundamental principle of birthright citizenship via executive order. Hasn’t happened.
• He spontaneously announced in December that U.S. troops would be leaving Syria in such a way that could have exposed our allies in the region to being massacred, but it hasn’t happened yet.
• Earlier this year he said he was willing to shut the government down for “years” to get the wall built, but gave up after a month.
So maybe this one will get quagmired in the courts and he’ll lose interest. On the other hand, sometimes the bad ideas do end up being very bad in practice. Probably best to stay vigilant, just in case.