Border Haggling

President Donald Trump remains ever faithful to his reputation of shocking the markets with unexpected developments. Last night Trump announced that he will show support for the funding bill that was agreed this week, but as the proposal does not allocate enough money for funding his wall, he will also be declaring a national emergency. What does it all mean? Let’s find out.

First of all, the funding bill for the government was negotiated between the Democrats and the Republicans. Small concessions were made on both sides, with the Democrats agreeing to allocate a little over one billion dollars for border security. They preferred the term “physical barriers” – which could mean something other than a real wall, such as a fence, for instance. But considering that Trump wanted 5.7 billion to only cover 10% of the border with Mexico, the funding the current proposal allocates for border security will likely not be enough to build much. If it is used to fund more human labor across the border, with more patrols, etc., it might work, but that is up to the government to decide.

The pressure to reach a deal by the end of this week was real. Previously legislators agreed on a short-term funding program that expires today. If they had failed to produce a deal, this would have let to another government shutdown starting Monday. The details on the bill are still to be clarified and voted on by Congress. The President must also agree to the bill, so technically Trump can still try to trip the government over. Nevertheless, his team is aware that the shutdown had a negative effect on his approval ratings and are eager to present a narrative where the President appears as the savior. Therefore Trump is expected to sign the bill, despite it not giving him enough money for a wall.

Regarding the issue of the wall, Trump is definitely not giving up. The wall along the border with Mexico was his signature promise during his election campaign and he would lose the support of his loyal voters if he does not deliver. In fact, he was criticized in the media for showing support to the funding proposal because of how little money it offers for border security. To combat the negative backlash and make good on his promise of a wall, Trump has officially decided to declare a state of national emergency.

We have mentioned this before, but just to refresh your memory, declaring a state of national emergency typically allows the President of the United States to take funds from the military’s budget and apply them to whatever policies he deems relevant in eliminating the emergency, even without the approval of Congress. That is the point here – Congress does not support the wall plan with a majority, so Trump will use the emergency to act without the need for their approval.

However, you should not expect swift actions. As soon as the President declares the national emergency, the Democratic Party has stated they will challenge it in court on legal grounds. The President’s team must prove that there is indeed an emergency, and many critics have stated that it will be a difficult, likely prolonged battle in court. Trump himself does not have the best legal record. Throughout his life he has lost hundreds of court cases, opting to pay settlements instead. As President, his travel ban was challenged and found unconstitutional, which led to its cancellation. After all, the system is designed in a way to prevent the President from acting like an absolute monarch.