(CNN)With this government shutdown now the longest in American history, it’s time to bring it to an end.
Once enacted, the House and Senate should negotiate a responsible border security package combined with protections for the Dreamers — the young adults brought into this country illegally as children through no fault of their own — and a permanent solution for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) population, or people who fled natural disasters or armed conflict in El Salvador, Haiti and a limited number of other countries.
That’s how a functional government would proceed — through negotiation and compromise.
Of course, this is Washington, and Trump and his administration have other ideas. He and members of his team have toyed with the idea of declaring a national emergency, though Trump has said he is not quite ready to do so. Trump has also been presented with proposals to redirect military construction or disaster emergency funds to build a wall — without congressional authorization.
If either of these two options were invoked, a legal challenge would be filed immediately, further inflaming the ongoing crisis in political leadership. Such extreme proposals would trample Congress’ Article I power of the purse authority, set a terrible precedent and further diminish the role of the legislative body within our system of checks and balances. And how could any member of Congress agree to give up their constitutional duties and responsibilities to such a degree?
Furthermore, a presidential emergency declaration under these politically motivated circumstances is equally reckless. Redirecting billions of dollars of military construction funds that support the housing, health, educational and infrastructure needs of military service members and their families is misguided and tone deaf.
As a former chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, I can state with some authority the additional negative impacts on defense preparedness and readiness. Does Trump intend to take precious resources from the new military hospital under construction in Germany that cares for our troops wounded in Afghanistan and the Middle East in order to build a wall along the 2,000-mile border that homeland security experts told me, while I was in Congress, is unnecessary to establish operational control of the border?
Or perhaps he intends to slow down the relocation of our army base in South Korea from Seoul to Camp Humphreys, 40 miles south, which places our soldiers and their families outside the range of North Korean artillery fire?
Maybe he wants to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin by clawing back money for vital military infrastructure projects that support our resolute NATO allies in Eastern Europe.
But, seriously, what’s the greatest threat — ISIS, Putin, Kim Jong Un or desperate, impoverished migrants from Central America? These are the choices.
In recent days, the Trump administration has floated taking funds from those impacted by disasters in Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico to pay for the wall. It’s hard to imagine members of Congress embracing this half-baked idea, while their devastated constituents are struggling mightily to reconstruct their lives and livelihoods. In fact, some in the Senate, such as Sen. John Cornyn from Texas, have already rejected the idea.
Emergency declarations must be called judiciously, and the remedy must address the underlying emergency. Few Americans questioned the national emergency necessitated by the September 11 attacks and the actions taken immediately thereafter to secure our aviation sector. Similarly, desperately needed housing and food assistance for families devastated by the recent hurricanes and wildfires requires no explanation.
However, today’s challenges at the southern border, difficult as they are, do not rise to the level established by previous national emergencies.
Congress has a golden opportunity to seize control of events, reopen the government, reclaim its authority, check a wildly flailing president and reassure the American people in this time of governmental chaos and instability. This could, and should, include overriding a presidential veto, if necessary.
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