In a guest column on this page, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., writes about legislation he sponsored to preserve our environmental and cultural heritage.
Having grown up in the foothills beside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s only natural that Tennessee’s senior senator would be a guardian of the state’s resources.
A Maryville native and son of educators, it’s also only to be expected he has enthusiasm for history and for protecting our nation’s legacy.
While not a military warrior by nature or profession, Alexander does function as an officer on a political battlefield. His philosophy of political leadership might be summed up in a poem with words attributed to a leader before a battle in 1834: “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!”
Naturally reflective and deliberate, it is Alexander’s way to study a situation before deciding what to do about it, to be prepared to speak out when the time is right.
On Feb. 15, the time was right to call the president on what is Donald Trump’s fixation on a border wall. The Tennessee senator did so by issuing a statement on Trump’s national emergency announcement.
By Alexander’s reckoning, the president makes a case for securing the nation’s Southern border. In fact the great majority of Americans favor border security. But when this wall, this immovable object in the president’s mind, meets an irresistible object, it must face reality. In Alexander’s words: “Declaring a national emergency is unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.”
Hello, immovable object. It’s time for the president to receive a lesson in history. Alexander notes that Congress has voted to appropriate funds — just as the Constitution sets forth — for a variety of measures that will enhance border security. That, after all, is supposed to be the point. Declaration of a national emergency that doesn’t exist is not.
“It is unwise because if this president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next president can declare a national emergency to tear it down; or declare a climate change emergency to close coal plants and build wind turbines; or a health care emergency and force into Medicare the 180 million Americans with health insurance on the job,” Alexander said.
Note how Alexander has crafted a message with points appealing to the president, maintaining adherence to traditional conservative Republican Party doctrine, while slipping in one of his own pet peeves to boot. Readers can figure out that last one on their own.
The senator continues with his bedrock objection to the president’s national emergency.
“It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution because, after the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to a Congress elected by the people.”
A voice of reason in Congress. Who’d have thought it? Especially in this era when congressmen and women, Republicans and Democrats alike, have failed to object when presidents overreach.
A diminished Congress diminishes America. Thanks for standing up for the Constitution, Sen. Alexander. It’s time for our government to regain its balance and operate as established. This mistaken declaration of national emergency must not stand.