In a statement issued on Friday, President Trump utilised the “law and the legislative process designed by our [U.S] founders” to invoke the first official veto of his presidency. Justifying the decision as part of his “duty”, President Trump vetoed the “dangerous” attempt from Congress to revoke the declaration of a state of emergency. Described by Trump as being one of the biggest emergencies faced by the U.S, his declaration of national emergency sought to secure over five billion dollars in funding for the construction of a wall across the US-Mexico border. Congress have argued that the declaration to appropriate funds for ‘the wall’ constitutes a drastic misuse of emergency powers, whereby the recent veto by Trump reiterates his “undemocratic recklessness.”
The rhetoric constantly employed by Trump is central to the dilemma surrounding ‘the wall’. As such, the President’s decision to declare a state of national emergency last month has been largely waged against illegal ‘criminals’ and traffickers from Mexico or elsewhere in Central America. Moreover, to reiterate the severity of the issue at the border, Trump has often referred to the situation as warranting both a humanitarian and security crisis. Such rhetoric has been used by the President to invoke a national emergency in order to divert military funds towards the construction of ‘the wall’.
Trump’s initial response to Congress’ decision to overturn his national emergency was displayed on Twitter as simply, “VETO!”. The President claimed that the “Democrat inspired Resolution” would increase “Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking” within the U.S. Opposition, however, have described such comments as inaccurate, warranting a “Fake Emergency” – as argued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This dualism is mirrored in the division of public opinion; whilst around 73% of Republicans support Trump’s decision to invoke emergency powers to build the wall, an overwhelming majority of the public (65%) condemn such actions, according to a Monmouth University Poll. It is on the latter public opinion that Congress is seeking to conduct a subsequent vote to repeal Trump’s veto.
Many have claimed that Trump’s decision to veto the resolution by Congress is undemocratic, especially since now Congress does not hold the majority support to overturn Trump’s verdict. However, most striking are Trump’s attempts to persuade public opinion. With constant use of terms such as ‘invasion’, ‘criminals’ and ‘illegal immigration’, Trump is not only constructing a physical border between the U.S and Mexico, but also creating a psychological division. The lives of vulnerable people migrating to the U.S are therefore being impacted both physically and politically via the construction of a false narrative. Viewing innocent people as criminals and as a threat to the American people is reiterated by Trump’s statement that, “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is”.
Trump’s ability to effectively overrule decisions by Congress has worrying implications in addressing issues ranging from climate change to the Yemen conflict. Moreover, since declaring a national emergency, Trump’s support ratings – although low – have persisted at around 35-40%, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Despite being vetoed by the President the resolution by Congress is an important step in challenging Trump’s misuse of power. As such, Congress holds an important role in not only representing democracy via the voice of the people but also in reversing the violent rhetoric employed by Trump to distort the reality at the border. By supporting Congress and by refusing to identify people solely under Trump’s rhetoric, the people hold a power as equally authoritative than that held by the President of the United States.
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