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MARY BETH SCHNEIDER: If you give a Trump a cookie

March 15, 2019

Sen. Todd Young, one of two Republicans serving Indiana in the U.S. Senate, has tried to stake out territory as an independent-minded statesman.

On his Twitter feed, Young said this week that “Hoosiers can always rely on me to examine every issue closely, to listen to their concerns, and to do what is in the best interest of our state and nation.”

His voting record so far shows he doesn’t vote in lockstep with his party or President Donald Trump. According to the political news site fivethirtyeight.com, Young has voted with Trump 91.4 percent of the time over his Senate career—but only 77.8 percent in the current session.      

The Marine Corps veteran showed some independence this week in a vote to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers. It was the second time Young joined only six other Republicans to defy the White House on the war in Yemen, which has resulted in mass starvation and deprivation in that country. 

It makes his other vote this week all the more disappointing.

Young joined with 40 Republicans in voting against a bill, already passed by the House, to end Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. Trump is invoking it in order to take billions of dollars from the needs Congress funded, to pay for the wall they wouldn’t fund.

They wouldn’t fund it when Congress had Republican majorities in both the House and Senate for his first two years in office.

They wouldn’t fund it when Trump shut down the government in December.

They wouldn’t fund it when Democrats took over the House.

Voting for the resolution isn’t a vote against border security and crime, as Trump asserts. Most people here illegally overstayed their visas. Most drugs come through ports of entry. And the thousands who are coming to our borders won’t be stopped by the wall because they are coming to entry points seeking asylum, which is legal.

Voting for the resolution is, however, a vote for Congress to do its job. It is a vote for preserving Congress’s power to appropriate tax dollars. And it is a vote against presidential overreach.

Young said he shares the concerns on overreach, so would also back proposed legislation to rein in future presidents.

Under that proposal, emergency declarations would have to be reaffirmed by Congress every 30 days. Just not this emergency declaration.

What a crock.

Young is saying future presidents need to have brakes put on this emergency declaration power, but not now. Presidential overreach is bad, he’s saying, but we’ll just let it go this time.

And guess what?

That proposed legislation is already dead. A leading proponent of the idea, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had tried to broker a deal with Vice President Mike Pence. Under it, Republicans would vote against the bill ending Trump’s trumped-up border wall emergency in exchange for Trump backing the legislation to limit future emergency declarations.

Trump wouldn’t buy it. So, Lee did what Young should have: Vote for the bill ending the wall emergency, despite Trump’s promised veto. 

Trump isn’t the first president to use this national emergency power; it’s been invoked 53 times. But he’s the first to use it to get money that Congress has explicitly denied him.

Do you really think he won’t use it again? Do you really think a future president will not feel that they should do the same? 

There’s a child’s book that says “if you give a mouse a cookie” pretty soon he’ll want milk, then a straw, a napkin and on and on.

It isn’t just Trump that Young is handing cookies to. It’s every president. And what looks like a cookie in the hands of a president with no restraints starts to look like smoke from a Reichstag fire, where a fake emergency is used to give a president autocratic powers. 

The rule in a democratic republic should be that the rules apply to everyone. Democrats who oppose this abuse now should be just as opposed if it’s done by a Democratic president.

And Republicans like Young who are giving Trump a cookie now are going to have to explain why a Democratic president shouldn’t get the cookie, the milk, the straw, the napkin and whatever other power he or she wants.

 Mary Beth Schneider is editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

 

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