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Cornyn, Cruz put Trump over Constitution

March 17, 2019

The explanations given by Texas’ two U.S. senators for supporting the president’s emergency declaration simply do not hold water. Their votes were divorced entirely from the constitutionally provided separation of powers and any real “emergency” that a border wall would address.

Sen. Ted Cruz explained his vote Thursday this way: “When President Obama violated the Constitution through executive amnesty (for Dreamers), I led the fight against that lawless action. Unlike President Obama, here President Trump is acting pursuant to explicit statutory authority.”

However, in acknowledging GOP Senate colleagues’ “real concerns regarding the vast emergency powers that Congress has given the President,” Cruz undercut his own argument. He said he shares those concerns.

And if he objected when Barack Obama did it (not under the auspices of the National Emergencies Act that Congress enacted, in any case), he should have been doubly concerned about President Donald Trump’s declaration.

Congress said “no” to the border funds. Trump disagreed, so he contrived an emergency and usurped Congress’ power of the purse by attempting to reallocate funds it apportioned for other purposes. Moreover, the votes allowing Congress to rescind such a declaration are acknowledgment that it is empowered to undertake critical analysis of what constitutes an emergency.

Cruz says there is such an emergency. There is none that a border wall will address. As has been reported over and over, border crossings are at historic lows; the recent influx of Central Americans is characterized by people turning themselves at ports of entry for asylum claims; and most drugs coming across the border enter through those same ports of entry.

The only emergency is how to deal with that Central American influx because border facilities and the immigration bureaucracy are not equipped to handle so many families and minors who are traveling alone. Congress should turn its attention to that.

But for an alleged constitutionalist, Cruz flunked. As has Cornyn, whose reasoning is similarly hollow. Moreover, he conflates issues.

He slammed Democrats for failing to deal with the Central American influx, but, again, a wall — what this emergency declaration is about — doesn’t really address that. And, like Cruz, he has voiced support for reining in the president’s declaration powers.

But given the opportunity to do that reining in, Cornyn not just punted but fumbled.

Grasp the logic. The president’s emergency declaration powers must be reined in, both are deeply concerned, but let’s give the president a pass this one time. The selectivity of Cruz’s and Cornyn’s outrage over the Constitution is troubling — and purely political.

Cornyn’s vote likely stems from his place in the GOP Senate leadership — he is No. 2 — and fears of a backlash in his 2020 re-election bid. He will get that backlash in any case; it just won’t come during the GOP primary but in the general election.

Cruz simply is against anything Democrats are for — his ardor for the Constitution situational, apparently. The National Emergencies Act did not foreclose on senators discerning whether the emergency is legitimate or passed constitutional muster.

Yes, the president will veto and it’s clear at the moment that there are not enough GOP votes to override.

And this will pose one more opportunity for Texas’ senators. Congress said no to the funds, and the president has done his version of taking away the marbles by declaring an emergency and issuing the veto threat.

Cornyn and Cruz can stand for Congress’ power of the purse and help override the veto — they can continue to be for this constitutional power, or they can stand with the president on this declaration.

They cannot do both, not with any intellectual honesty.