Shutting Down the Government

Lest we forget, there was a well-publicized meeting between President Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on December 11, 2018. During that meeting, Mr. Trump stated that he would be proud to preside over a partial government shutdown, if that’s what it would take to fund the border wall he promised during his election campaign.

Unlike previous shutdowns, in which each political party could find ample political ammunition to blame the other, this one falls squarely in the lap of the Executive Branch. President Trump threatened a shutdown if he didn’t get his way. He then followed through on his threat when the legislative branch didn’t give him what he wanted.

As Spirited Reasoners, we like to take a step back at times like these, pause, inhale deeply, and remind ourselves how the system is designed to work:

Since legislative approval of both houses of Congress is required to pass a spending bill, those favoring such spending need to develop arguments designed to persuade a majority of the membership in both the House and the Senate. And, since those bodies are currently controlled by opposing parties, winning arguments will need to be nonpartisan, or at least bipartisan in nature.

“What?” you say. “No such arguments exist!”

Well, then, our Constitution says no spending bill gets passed. And that’s just the way it is. The President doesn’t have the option of donning a crown or a dictator’s uniform and extracting whatever money he needs from the U. S. Treasury in the absence of Congressional approval. Even if he wishes to declare some sort of emergency authority, he will need to find that authority in a different Congressional statute or perhaps in the Constitution itself.

Otherwise, if a majority of votes does not exist to finance construction of a border wall, then the wall does not get built.

“But,” you say, “it really is an emergency!”

Then explain that fact to the majority in the House of Representatives–the “People’s House”–who were just elected from 435 districts across the entire United States. Surely these representatives of the people will know an emergency when they see one.

“No,” you reply. “They are Democrats. And Democrats cannot be trusted to save our nation from an imminent invasion of murderers and rapists and assorted dirty people.”

In which case, we Spirited Reasoners would observe that your fight is not really against Democrats, but against the democratic process itself.