As every gym rat knows, muscles must be exercised or they lose their power.
So we were encouraged to see the U.S. Senate lock arms with its House colleagues Thursday by voting to overturn President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration of a crisis on the Southern border.
It’s been a while since both houses of Congress have flexed that muscle, called the separation of powers and defined in the Constitution. And more exercising likely is on the way. The Senate vote followed by one day another reprimand of Trump when the chamber voted to end U.S. support for the awful Saudi-led military action in Yemen, which has spawned an epic humanitarian crisis. The House is virtually certain to follow suit.
If they keep it up, they might even develop some muscle memory.
The issue with the emergency declaration wasn’t whether there is a crisis, but what Trump wanted to do with the declaration — divert $3.6 billion Congress had allocated to military construction projects and use it to build his wall. But spending money is the province of Congress. So is declaring war. The Constitution that Trump professes to love and swore to defend says so.
It was hearteningto see that 12 GOP senators pushed back on Trump’s attempted usurping of the power of the purse. It was dismaying, but hardly surprising, that more Republicans who call themselves constitutionalists did not join them. With its 59-41 vote, the Senate rejected both Trump’s false contention that a yes vote would be a vote for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as the hypocrisy of his gambit epitomized by his administration’s promise to Arizona Sen. Martha McSally that wall money would not be taken from any projects in her state if she supported the president in the vote.
With Trump promising a veto, the dispute eventually seems bound for the Supreme Court, where his own picks, based on their rulings and writings, might also defy him.
That, too, would be the democratic process at work. And the more it works, the stronger it gets.