The Democrats’ Phony Stance on Congressional Constitutional Authority

In voting this week to reject President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border, Democrats in the House claimed that they were simply exercising their congressional right of review. The president, said Nancy Pelosi and others, was trying to strip Congress of its power and turn this nation into a dictatorship. He was stealing power from the legislative branch and making it his own. To our chagrin, more than a handful of Republicans shared that view. It remains to be seen whether or not the courts will.

But without getting into the specific legalities of Trump’s declaration, it’s worth noticing that constitutional awareness is a relatively new phenomenon within the Democratic Party. They certainly didn’t seem all that interested in protecting Congress’ power of review during the Obama years. We can scratch that up to simple, partisan politics…but it’s really worse than that.

You don’t often expect to see the Democrats called out on their hypocrisy in the Washington Post, but columnist Philip Bump did a fine job of it on Tuesday. In his piece, he noted that Congress has been in defiance of the National Emergencies Act for decades.

From the Washington Post:

The text of the National Emergencies Act is clear.

“Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared,” it reads, “and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a concurrent resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.”


By our count, using data from the Brennan Center for Justice, for the duration of every national emergency that has ever been declared, Congress is supposed to have conducted 1,094 reviews of those declarations.

More than a thousand reviews. How many have they actually conducted? The Washington Post and the Brennan Center did a deep dive and found that Congress has exercised this authority – at most – twice before this week. And even one of those examples was less about passing a resolution and more about sending a letter to the executive branch.

What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that Congress was perfectly happy, for more than forty years, to leave national emergency discretion up to the President. It was only when it was THIS President – only when it was THIS issue – that they decided it was time to stand up for their legislative responsibilities. That shows no loyalty to the Constitution. That shows no particular heroism. That shows blatant partisan recklessness, and a continuation of the Trump Derangement Syndrome that has gripped the Democratic Party for three years.

Mitch McConnell: Don’t let this foolishness taint the Senate.

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