Might that precedent come back to haunt Republicans if a future Democratic president declares a state of emergency in order to pursue gun control or another liberal objective? Possibly, although border control using the Army Corps of Engineers and other military resources is a very different proposition from attacking a constitutional right such as the right to keep and bear arms. But in any event, Trump is only illuminating a problem that Congress created in the first place when it started delegating such powers to the executive branch. The same is true, of course, with respect to the way Trump has used presidential powers to negotiate trade—he has such powers because Congress gave them to the president. And Congress did that in order to hand off a hot potato: fearful legislators didn’t want trade arguments to intrude into their primaries and general-election campaigns. Talk now of taking back the president’s trade authority sounds like so much bravado: Congress still doesn’t want to be the focus of trade controversies.
Trump is set to deliver on one of his loudest promises of 2016. Those on the right who follow immigration policy closely are not happy with what Trump conceded in order to keep the government from shutting down again: the compromise legislation the parties in Congress agreed to in order to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year “is tantamount to an illegal immigration ‘stimulus,’” Fox News’s Laura Ingraham warned, “de facto amnesty to any ‘sponsor,’ family member or ‘potential sponsor’ of an unaccompanied minor.” But Trump voters who make the wall itself a top priority will see his emergency declaration as a step toward fulfilling his commitment from 2016. The use of emergency powers to build the wall finds more opposition among the public at large than the wall itself does, according to recent polls. For many of his core supporters, however, Trump’s unorthodox move will be a mark of fidelity.