House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reminds us what Republicans used to sound like. Congress is "the first branch of government . . . imbued with powers in the text of the Constitution, including the power of the purse," she said Friday morning in a press conference call. In announcing the introduction of a resolution to cut short President Donald Trump's bogus emergency declaration, she warned that if his maneuver succeeds, it "would fundamentally alter the balance of powers."
Democrats are wasting no time. Introduced on Friday, the resolution will go to the House Rules Committee on Monday and get a vote on Tuesday. As she did in her "Dear Colleague" letter - which she stressed was not a "Dear Democratic Colleague" letter - she strenuously urged Republicans to vote for the bill. Only one, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., signed on as a co-sponsor but, as Pelosi notes, co-sponsoring a bill is a "courtesy." Voting is what matters.
The veteran appropriator could not resist pointing out that $2 billion of the money intended to be tapped from a Pentagon drug-fighting account has already been spent. Beyond not knowing the Constitution, she chided, "They don't know what they are doing." Pelosi repeated over and over again that this should not be a political or partisan matter. "It's about patriotism," she said. "I know they care about the Constitution of the United States," she said magnanimously. But do they?
So far Republican leadership is sticking with the president at the expense of fidelity to the Constitution and the stature of their own branch of government. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Tex., who is spearheading the resolution, predicted that if Trump gets away with it this time, he will certainly try it again. Unspoken was the corollary: If Trump gets away with it, the next Democratic president will try it, too.
It was reassuring to see a politician as stirred up about the Constitution and as eager to enlist the other party in protecting it. "We will fight in Congress, in the courts and in public," Pelosi vowed. "This is about upholding the oath of office." She added that if they didn't act, "We would be negligent in our duties."
And so, in just a few days, Republicans will be unmasked. Those who want conservative judges to uphold the letter of the Constitution, who lambasted President Barack Obama for issuing by executive order the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals and who claim to be defenders of limited government yet nevertheless support a bad-faith invocation of emergency to sidestep the legislative process will be revealed as not just unconservative but anti-democratic (small "d") and hostile to the Constitution.
Now, I suppose in their continual enabling of an authoritarian president with no respect for the norms and institutions of democracy, they have already told us that they don't believe their own talking points. Having a clean vote, however, will provide an unmistakable and irreversible marker. Does the Republican Party believe in Trump or in the Constitution? I fear it is the former, but I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.