Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the current, ongoing government shutdown is how Donald Trump is handling it. Rather than vetoing bills he actually objects to, he’s holding things hostage with his $5.7 billion border wall and promising to veto bills he does not object to if he doesn’t get his way.
While this is certainly generating attention because of his childlike antics, perhaps it should be generating more attention because of how unconstitutional and perhaps impeachable it is.
Under the Constitution, only the legislative branch can make such an appropriation. The executive branch has no right to do such a thing, because the president is not considered coequal with Congress when it comes to appropriations. For proof, look no further than Federalist 58, which states that “the legislative department alone has access to the pockets of the people.”
That said, Trump’s claim that he can build the wall anyway is perhaps even more unconstitutional than his hostage negotiations. Article I of the Constitution makes it clear that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
And Trump’s demand for an appropriation from Congress because of a security crisis on the border should draw some ire as well. If it doesn’t, I suggest you hit the history books and review the specific grievance against the king of England that sparked the American Revolution. You may find a parallel.
But that’s not even the worst of it. In shutting down the government to extort an appropriation he is not entitled to, Trump is also violating his oath of office and breaching one of his core fiduciary duties: to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Shutting down one-third of the government for “months or even years” doesn’t exactly exude “care” and will certainly haven an impact on the execution of many laws, wouldn’t you agree?
Regardless of how much longer Trump wants the shutdown to last, the House and Senate could always pass and place a bill before him in order to force his hand and reopen the government. But given his current stance on the matter, he’d most likely veto the bill out of spite. And if he does, the voices clamoring for impeachment will surely begin to swell.