Slippery Slope
January 11, 2019

President Trump is considering declaring a national emergency over his proposed border wall, but some Republicans are fearful over what a future Democratic president could do with that power.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson is among those who think Trump shouldn't take this route because of the precedent it would establish. "When the next Democratic President declares a national emergency over gun violence and takes executive actions to curtail gun purchases, you can thank the people urging Donald Trump to do the same with regards to the border," he wrote on Twitter. Fox News' Brian Kilmeade, too, issued this warning Thursday, suggesting an emergency could be declared over climate change in a Democratic administration.

This sentiment has not only been popular among conservative pundits, though, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) telling CNBC, "If today, the national emergency is border security ... tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change." Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), meanwhile, has a different worry: that the next Democrat could use their emergency powers to say "we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America," Talking Points Memo reports. Others have been offering more general warnings, as Vox points out, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) agreeing that Trump's declaration would be a "bad precedent" in an interview with CNBC.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seemed to prove some of these fears valid in a Friday tweet, listing a number of non-wall issues he considers national emergencies, including gun violence and climate change.

One Republican who clearly has no concern about this is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who, after unsuccessfully attempting to broker an agreement with his fellow members of Congress, urged Trump to "Declare emergency, build the wall now." To that, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg replied, "Can't wait to see what the next Dem president does with that precedent, Lindsey." Brendan Morrow

October 16, 2017

Late Sunday night, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill that would have aimed to require presidential candidates to release their last five tax returns in order to appear on the state ballot, disappointing Democrats and open-government advocates. The legislation, passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, was prompted by President Trump's decision not to release any of his tax returns, bucking decades of precedent. Brown — who also did not release his own tax returns during the 2010 and 2014 campaigns, Politico notes — cited legal questions and the "slippery slope."

"While I recognize the political attractiveness — even the merits — of getting President Trump's tax returns, I worry about the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner," he wrote in a veto message. "First, it may not be constitutional. Second, it sets a 'slippery slope' precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" Legal analysts were divided on whether the bill would pass constitutional muster. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads