During the longest government shutdown in United States history, President Trump has threatened to call a national state of emergency to re-open the government and get work started on the southern border wall. This threat has caused some to wonder whether executive power is becoming unchecked in 21st century America.
The American Founders created a system of checks and balances and separation of powers in our Constitution to ensure that tyranny — the concentration of all powers in the hands of one body — did not form. However, during national emergencies (especially wartime and national security crises), power has tended to shift into the hands of the executive. In these times, the president is given broad powers that are largely unchecked in the name of security.
Supporters of unchecked presidential powers argue that the executive is the branch that is most adept at handling emergencies. They believe that since the president does not need to deliberate as Congress does, he or she can rapidly make decisions in times when citizens’ lives are in danger. This side fears that checking the executive’s power during a crisis will threaten national security. They also argue that a temporary unchecked executive is not unconstitutional as the president may need to take extraordinary steps in order to preserve the country he or she has sworn to protect.
Those who are opposed to an unchecked executive during national emergencies fear that handing power to one person, even for a short period, is a serious threat to liberty. They believe that some form of oversight should exist to ensure that the president does not abuse his or her power. This side also claims that giving unchecked power to one body is a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.
What do you think? Should the President of the United States have any unchecked powers?