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President Trump Properly Refrains From a Funding Veto

President Trump Properly Refrains From a Funding Veto
President Donald Trump speaks to the press about the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday, with Vice President Mike Pence (2nd-L), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, (L), and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R) in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on March 23, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Monday, 26 March 2018 12:31 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Is the era of Donald Trump already over? One might draw that conclusion from the response to the President’s decision to sign the $1.3 trillion Omnibus Spending measure last week. Several conservative pundits declared that Mr. Trump was caving into the demands of the swamp he had promised to drain, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did quite publicly gloat over the fact that so many progressive prerogatives were funded in the bill.

President Trump had the power to veto the measure, of course, and had even threatened to do so before he publicly and reluctantly acquiesced with his signature. He declared, however, that because the measure, following the evisceration for funding for the armed forces during the Obama administration, finally began the process of building back up our national defense, he was willing to accept it even with its short-comings.

He also indicated in White House statements that the bill’s provisions for billions to be allocated to preventing opiate abuse, to begin funding of the border wall, and for school security and infrastructure improvements signaled a “win for the American people.” This president’s deferring to Congress, still, was a reminder, really, that what we have in this country is not a government by a caudillo, and no longer do we have, as we had with Mr. Obama, an executive committed to seeking to bypass the will of Congress with his “phone and pen.”

President Trump, wrongly derided by his critics as an unprincipled autocrat, simply demonstrated his understanding of the primacy of the law-making and appropriations power of Congress (in the Constitution, it should be remembered, the first Article deals with the power of the legislature, and the second limns the powers of the executive). Indeed, before the last few decades, it was understood by many political scientists and politicians that the veto was conceived to be used by the president to check unconstitutional legislative measures, and not to substitute his policy preferences for those of Congress, although this is no longer the general understanding.

There are certainly things in the measure that those of us who care about restraining the growth of the federal leviathan ought to lament, including the half-billion dollars allocated to Planned Parenthood (though presumably the bill bars the use of those funds to perform abortions), and the preservation of many expenditures for domestic programs involving favored projects of Democrats. Still, legislation is a process of compromise, and the principal problem in our polity in recent years has been Congressional gridlock. While it is not true that any legislation is always better than none, the prospect of a federal governmental shutdown, which would have loomed if the president had vetoed the measure, would likely and properly also have given him pause.

This is not to say that the federal government’s funding and legislative procedures are not in need of fundamental reform. That government is wasteful, overweening, and probably in violation of the Tenth Amendment’s requirement that it be one of limited and enumerated powers. Further, it certainly smacks of a lack of due process for Congress (as it did in the case of Obamacare, and as it did with this budget bill) to produce a document of more than two thousand pages that none of our legislators probably even read, much less understood. Surely this is not what the framers contemplated in our system of popular legislative supremacy. Perhaps the mainstream media ought to pay more attention to this problem than to the doomed effort to undercut the Second Amendment or the self-promotion of a porn starlet or a playboy model pruriently peddling details of pre-presidential peccadillos.

Equally alarming is the fact that this funding for the federal government will expire September 30, shortly before the coming Congressional elections, and that we are likely to witness another struggle (quite possibly with another threatened veto and another threatened shutdown) at that time. Given that partisan feelings will be running even higher at that point than they are now, this does not auger well for political peace and bipartisanship. Six months, though, can be an eternity in American politics, and we can hope that the Trump administration will be able to achieve its goals of sustaining robust economic growth and increased job creation, as well as returning us to a healthier climate for investment in industry and the stock market. We can also hope that the strengthened military and the president’s newly altered national security team can create breakthroughs in the Middle East, and in negotiations with Korea and Iran.

It is also possible that the president’s suggestion of removing the threat of filibuster in the Senate might create the prospect of legislative measures that might finally fully effectuate the will of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. In any event, now that the president and the Congress have bought what amounts to budgetary peace for six months, Washington can turn its attention to solving the problem of immigration and permanently funding the border securing measures the president desires.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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StephenBPresser
Is the era of Donald Trump already over? One might draw that conclusion from the response to the President’s decision to sign the $1.3 trillion Omnibus Spending measure last week.
trump, omnibus spending, congress, veto
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2018-31-26
Monday, 26 March 2018 12:31 PM
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