Yesterday, the mayors of DC, New York Metropolis, Portland, and Seattle issued a joint assertion condemning President Donald Trump’s directive to limit federal funding to their jurisdictions. “Our cities, and the millions of Americans who we represent, are not President Trump’s political pawns,” the assertion says. “We are confronting unprecedented challenges—fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus. Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional and will be undoubtedly defeated in court. President Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities—and our entire country—and realize he is not above the law.”
The presidential memo that kicked off this odd battle, for the uninitiated, directs federal officers to guage whether or not sure American cities needs to be stripped of federal funding. Within the memo, Trump flags 4 Democratic-led cities—DC, New York, Seattle, and Portland—as examples of locations which have “deteriorated into lawless zones.” He orders the Legal professional Normal and Director of the Workplace of Administration and Price range to determine different “anarchist jurisdictions” with the intent of limiting federal funding to these locales.
In idea, these jurisdictions may lose federal funding for issues like transportation tasks, housing assist, and legislation enforcement grants. However given the truth that even Trump’s memo questions his authorized authority to withhold funds it appears unlikely the President would be capable to enact it.
Nonetheless, ought to he determine to press ahead with these efforts, does he have a shot at bringing his plans to fruition? One notably occasion—a constitutional legislation professor who occurs to take a seat on the DC Council—says don’t guess your paycheck on it. And even your federal block grant.
“It’s an unwinnable legal battle,” says Mary Cheh, a Democrat who represents Ward three and does double obligation as a professor at George Washington College Legislation College. “This document is a crude political attack masquerading as a presidential directive.”
A short constitutional refresher: Article One clearly supplies Congress the ability to create legal guidelines, which incorporates figuring out spending. The President solely has the ability to enact and execute these legal guidelines, not the ability to vary them. “The President has no power to to change the terms of federal spending to local jurisdictions to coerce them to follow his political desires,” Cheh says. “It reflects this basic ignorance about how government works in the United States. He thinks of himself as some sort of king or potentate who can just have edicts.”
Within the memo, Trump particularly targets federal grants, which generally help facets of transportation and infrastructure tasks, well being and welfare applications, and legislation enforcement. When these grants are issued by Congress, Cheh says there are particular parameters in place that dictate how the cash is meant to be spent. “It’s like a contract between the federal government and the local jurisdiction about what they’ve agreed to do to continue to receive this money” she says. Ought to Trump attempt to block these grants, he can be “changing the terms of the deal under which the states agreed to accept the money,” she says, primarily violating that contract.
Cheh thinks it’s unlikely Trump would severely pursue this motion, and sees the directive as a “political attack.” Ought to he determine to proceed now, Cheh says the affected jurisdictions would instantly sue, request an injunction so funds wouldn’t be affected, and decidedly win their case. However what if he was to win one other time period, and a newly Trump-red Congress offered extra open-ended directives connected to federal grants?
“If Congress said that money could be used for various purposes, leaving the president with discretion to figure out how much and where…perhaps [he could enact his plan],” she says. “But I doubt any purposes would fall within the crazy ideas that are embodied in this directive. ‘If you allow anarchy to prevail,’ what does that mean?”
We’ll discover out quickly sufficient: Per Trump’s memo, the Legal professional Normal and the director of the Workplace of Administration and Price range have 14 days to submit an inventory of “anarchist jurisdictions”— characterised as locations that refuse Federal legislation enforcement help or “disempower or defund” police departments.
Assistant EditorJane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her residence. Earlier than becoming a member of Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Journal and the Chicago Solar-Occasions. She is a graduate of Northwestern College, the place she studied journalism and opera.