Credit: The White House/Flickr

Et tu, Rand Paul?

The Republican Party cheerleading session that is the Southern Kentucky Lincoln Day Dinner veered slightly off course Saturday with this pronouncement by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green: “I can’t vote to give extra-Constitutional powers to the president.”

In a speech to the crowd of nearly 200 Republican officeholders and supporters at Western Kentucky University’s Augenstein Alumni Center, Paul interjected, in a speech devoted largely to praising the work of President Donald Trump, his opinion that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border is a dangerous precedent.

“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul said just moments after drawing applause for his praise of some Trump policies and his ridicule of some congressional Democrats. “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

With Paul’s vote alongside a handful of other Republican senators and a united Democratic caucus behind opposition to Trump’s emergency declaration, the president will be forced to issue his first presidential veto if he wants to keep hope for his ersatz emergency alive.

Will he? It seems likely he will. For all his bluster and the pretense of being a tough guy, Trump hates and fears genuine confrontation. He hates to fire people and Mitch McConnell has protected him from responsibility for any vetoes.

But Trump knows he has to look like he did everything in his power to build the wall he promised his base; the conservative infotainment hucksters who actually control the White House’s behavior won’t let him change the subject. Which means more upending of constitutional powers, more legal wrangling, and more stress on an already stressed system of governance.

Still, it’s mildly heartening when even a few Republicans still gin up enough moral conviction to put forth a minor roadblock to this president’s bulldozing of the balance of powers.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.