How Congress can stop Trump’s ‘emergency’

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The Washington Post

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It seems President Trump is preparing to claim that some “emergency” on the U.S. southern border authorizes him to act, without new legislation, to spend money and build a wall. Under the Constitution, presidents have no such emergency power. This has been well-established and accepted since at least 1952.

Sixty-seven years ago, President Harry S. Truman acted, without congressional authorization, to seize and run the nation’s steel mills. Steel companies and steelworkers had failed to reach a new contract, so a strike was imminent.

Truman, a decent man, believed sincerely that a strike this would harm national security by halting steel production essential to keep arming U.S. forces fighting in Korea and to build nuclear weapons in the Cold War arms race with the Soviet Union. Truman thus declared that, in this “emergency,” he had inherent power under the Constitution to take over and run the steel mills.

The steel companies took Truman to court, arguing he had no constitutional power to seize — to steal, if I may — private property. In the Supreme Court, the steel companies won — presidential “stealing” lost — by a vote of 6-to-3.