Wicker’s politically unpopular vote was the right one
The social media hysteria, threats of political retribution, and withering criticism of Mississippi senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker’s vote in favor of a resolution of disapproval for President Donald Trump’s Feb. 15 national emergency declaration aside, Wicker’s vote was the right one.
As Wicker and the other 11 Republican senators who voted for the resolution made clear, they were not opposed to construction of the southern border wall that Trump has championed and that was the goal of Trump’s national emergency declaration. What they opposed – and rightly so — was the establishment of the precedent that a U.S. president can circumvent Congress to pay for what he wants rather than earning Congressional approval for that expenditure.
More to the point, Wicker’s vote signals that he fully understands that conservative Republicans won’t always occupy the White House and that the next occupants might just be liberal Democrats or even Socialists like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
If Donald Trump can declare a national emergency to bypass Congress in funding a southern border wall that the majority of Wicker’s constituents will likely heartily approve, then President Beto O’Rourke can do the same thing to pay for whatever “emergency” he envisions over guns or climate change or national health care.
Wicker said: “I am concerned about the precedent an emergency declaration sets, which might empower a future liberal President to declare emergencies to enact gun control or to address ‘climate emergencies,’ or even to tear down the wall we are building today.
“I regret that we were not able to find a solution that would have averted a challenge to the balance of power as defined by the Constitution. The system of checks and balances established by the Founders has preserved our democracy. It is essential that we protect this balance even when it is frustrating or inconvenient.”
And let’s stop hyperventilating over the current political fight over the border wall long enough to face a few inarguable truths. Both parties, Democrat and Republican, have played politics with immigration for decades. Neither party has the high moral ground on this issue.
Democrats turned their heads to the border security issue in great measure in hopes of attracting immigrant voters to their party and expanding their base. Republicans turned their heads on the same issue because of the desire for a cheap and ready supply of immigrant labor.
So the political can got kicked down the road until unauthorized immigrants account for between 10.4 million and 12.5 million U.S. residents, depending on whose numbers one chooses to accept. Predictably, even that division is partisan.
The southern border wall was started in 1993 between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. To date, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that some $9.7 billion has been expended to construct about 673 miles of southern border barriers — about a third of the 1,900 border miles between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
While in the House and later in the Senate, Wicker has been a hawkish proponent of border security and border building, a fact ignored by those gnawing on him on social media. Few in Mississippi’s congressional delegation now or in the past have had a more conservative, vigilant record on immigration. Wicker has never been popular with pro-immigrant groups in his home state or nationally.
In response to the resolution vote, Trump issued his first-ever veto. House Democrats will almost certainly move to override the vote, but such a vote is unlikely in the GOP-controlled Senate. The ultimate fate of Trump’s emergency declaration will be decided in the federal courts.
Mississippi’s junior Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was among 41 Senate Republicans following obediently behind Trump. But Wicker cast a tough, forward-looking vote to maintain separation of powers — bringing the deluge of criticism from Trump followers that he knew would come.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.