Joined States Oppose National Emergency in a Lawsuit

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

Ashley Kim, Editor-in-Chief

Three days after President Donald Trump declared national emergency, sixteen states joined to level a lawsuit against the president’s decision.

The coalition of states is led by Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general.  Along with California in the coalition is Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. These fifteen states all have Democratic governors except Maryland, which has a Democratic attorney general.

Trump claims that his declaration is legal under the National Emergencies Act. The law has been used several times before, but never to bypass Congress and obtain money.  The emergency declaration, if unhindered, allows him to divert $3.6 billion from military construction accounts and about $2.5 billion from Defense Department drug-combating funds. In addition to the small amount of money allotted by Congress, Trump will have about $8 billion to build a barrier on the southern border.

The lawsuit brings up issues surrounding the Constitution, Congress’s power over spending, and the extent of power granted to the president under national emergency.  However, legal experts say that the case may be more about interpretation and legal issues than the Constitution. Moreover, the National Emergencies Act does not define conditions for what constitutes a national emergency.  Because of this, experts warn that fighting the declaration on the basis of the emergency’s legitimacy would be difficult. Instead, the lawsuit’s main argument is that money appropriated by Congress to states for various reasons is at risk.

Attorney general Becerra said, “If the President is essentially stealing money that’s been allocated to go to the various states for various purposes but no longer good will, we’re being harmed, our people are being harmed.”

The states’ lawsuit discussed the damage that the declaration will cause, saying, “The redirection of funding from authorized military construction projects located in Plaintiff States will cause damage to their economies…and the construction of a wall along California’s and New Mexico’s southern borders will cause irreparable environmental damage to those States’ natural resources.”

The biggest obstacle for the lawsuit is overcoming the fact that Congress never set a standard of what constitutes a national emergency. If the case is to even make it to court, the plaintiff states must prove that the diversion of funds is at harm to them.

Abby Newhart (9), a student interested in politics and law, said, “My main issue with President Trump’s declaration is that there is no real crisis that warrants a national emergency declaration. However, [it is] also important that the government considers how the emergency can hurt states and funding.”

In addition to the sixteen-state lawsuit, two cases had already been filed following Trump’s declaration. The watchdog group Public Citizen is representing landowners and an environmental group in Texas.  Another case was brought forth by the Center for Biological Diversity in lieu with the Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Congress is searching for a solution as well.  Congressional Democrats will vote in weeks on a resolution to repeal the national emergency.  They predict that some Republicans will support the resolution.  Republican members, so far, have had varying responses.  Some say that the emergency is legitimate, whereas others are alarmed by the precedent Trump could be setting by stepping around Congress to get funds in what is viewed as a power grab.

Keertana Panyam (9), a student interested in politics, said, “There are actual government issues, a water crisis, and gun problems, and [Trump is] worried about immigrants.  Illegal immigration [is not] our biggest problem.”

The Trump administration is still pushing for the wall to be built even as lawsuits and protests are levelled against them.  Tensions and legal consequences have risen, but the country can only hope that a resolution will be reached soon.