As talks over the border wall stall a few days ahead of the deadline for the budget, President Trump is likely going to have to make a choice between allowing another government shutdown or declaring a national emergency in order to begin building the border wall.
There are two other options – one logical and one suicidal. Neither seem to be under consideration.
The suicidal option is letting the border wall go. It would be political damaging if the President fails to deliver on his biggest promise from the 2016 election, the one he repeated hundreds of times on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, they can’t claim the Democrats obstructed because the GOP had control of the House, Senate, and White House for two years prior to making any real push for the wall. It seems disingenuous to say it’s the Democrats’ fault when the GOP didn’t even try when they had a chance.
The logical option is to have his Secretary of Defense invoke 10 U.S.C. 284, a preexisting measure in the United States Code that allows the Pentagon to render assistance to law enforcement to fight drug smuggling and organized crime at the border. This is, as we’ve detailed multiple times on this site, the most logical option to move forward since it would be wrapped in much less red tape than a national emergency and would get constructed started almost immediately. It wouldn’t deliver a permanent solution, but starting in the areas that need the most coverage makes perfect sense.
The two current options that are apparently on the table aren’t winners for the President or the country. Another government shutdown seems to be the better of the two options since it would allow the people to pressure Congress for the real solution to the border crisis. A national emergency declaration will blow up in the President’s face. Even if they’re able to unwrap it from the red tape that surrounds it, that won’t happen any time before the 2020 election. The borders as they are today are the borders the President will have to run on, and that’s not a good thing.
It’s time to stop playing political games with the Democrats and invoke 10 U.S.C. 284. If Congress won’t do their job, the Pentagon must act to keep our nation safe. This is the only play that makes sense, but it’s not the easiest.