EDITORIAL: Smucker, Perry roll over for Trump

York Dispatch Editorial Board

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry should be railing about executive overreach and abuse of power. Rep. Lloyd Smucker should be screaming from the rooftops about Congress' power of the purse. 

But on Friday, allegiance to President Donald Trump and fear of his frothing base yet again superseded any semblance of principle or duty.

That's when Trump strolled out of the White House and announced an emergency declaration to free up cash for his long-promised and misguided southern border wall — a fantasy he also long-insisted would be funded by Mexico.

For minute after painful minute, the president meandered and ranted in a diatribe neither rooted in fact nor reason. He outlined his intention to raid billions from various sources — money Congress never authorized for a border wall — to construct this senseless monument to his ego. 

And, in so doing, he articulated, once again, his contempt for the constitutional separation of powers and the rule of law. 

Trump's announcement was, in a very real way, an assault on Congress, which unilaterally wields the authority to appropriate new money.

This is the very kind of nose-thumbing members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have warned against for years. 

So one would expect Perry, the proud Freedom Caucus member that he is, to be downright apocalyptic at such a slap in Congress' collective face. 

Yes, well ...

Not so much.

Republican incumbent candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker greet each other during an appearance by Vice President Mike Pence who rallied at the Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

"He’s left no other choice, since both chambers and parties of Congress, once again, failed to act to secure our borders," the Carroll Township Republican said. 

Not to be outdone in this contest of partisan spinelessness, Smucker, too, chose party over country, while offering a feeble attempt to justify the president's end run past his right flank. 

"It’s Congress’ duty to ensure the president is acting within his constitutional authority to address that crisis," said the Lancaster Republican, who's district now includes southern York County.

"After research and consideration, I believe Trump is acting within his authority to take this action," Smucker said.

Perry and Smucker were but a sample of dozens of congressional Republicans who built entire careers blasting the expansion of executive power. 

More:Toomey displeased with Trump's border emergency, breaks with Smucker, Perry

More:Senate OKs border deal; Trump will sign, declare emergency

But such allegedly principled stands apparently apply only when a Democrat holds the White House. 

Trump himself tore down his ridiculous claim that migrants pose an immediate threat to the country. 

"I didn't need to do this," Trump said during Friday's rambling news conference. "I only want to do it faster."

Translation: There's no national emergency. The real issue here is one of a self-described master negotiator's inability to cut a deal with Congress.

It's a fact U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, all but admitted in his right-minded, though carefully worded, take-down of Trump's action.

"I made no secret of the fact that I hoped the president would choose to avoid unilateral action and work with Congress on a legislative solution to secure the border," Toomey said. 

Trump's playing to his base, the roughly third of the country that requires a steady helping of red meat slathered in racial subtext.

He sent troops to the border in the lead-up to November's elections. He tells fairy tales about MS-13 whenever his poll numbers dip. He denigrates human beings and cages children all so his followers can feel secure in their own supremacy.

The blind allegiance to Trump displayed by Perry and Smucker will outlast Trump's power grab, which already has seen the first of many expected lawsuits.

Going forward, it will be near impossible to contain an eye-roll when either man starts prattling on about executive overreach.

Their hypocrisy will be laid bare the moment they accuse a Democratic president of an abuse of power when — using Trump's precedent — they declare an emergency, say, after a mass shooting or devastating climatic event. 

Frankly, Perry and Smucker have exposed their rhetoric as hollow, which doesn't merit serious attention. 

And that's neither good for them nor York County.