Principle Versus Posturing on Display

In the 2018 midterm, North Dakota and South Dakota elected two new Representatives to Congress. Both won as Republicans. South Dakota’s margin of victory was 61-35. North Dakota’s 60-35. Both serve At-Large representing their entire state. Yet, the February 26th vote on whether Congress approves President Trump’s declared national emergency on the southern border shows that may be where the similarities end.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, SD

South Dakota’s newly elected Congressman Dusty Johnson voted based on principle. North Dakota’s newly elected Congressman Kelly Armstrong voted based on political posturing. Johnson was one of the thirteen GOP Representatives to join the Democratic majority to block Trump’s emergency. In a statement following his vote, Rep. Johnson said:

Throughout the last two months, I’ve reliably voted with the President on border security and the border wall. There is still work to be done, and I’m committed to working with him in Congress to continue the progress we’ve made.

An emergency declaration is the wrong approach, however. I spent eight years under President Obama fighting ever-expanding executive authority. I remain committed to that principle – Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD)

Johnson’s principled approach is refreshing. Separation and pushing back on executive excess regardless of party is what we should expect from a member of Congress. As Johnson makes clear, a member can support the goal without blindly supporting the process that may well set a precedent.

Compare Johnson’s approach to the delegation from North Dakota. Rep. Armstrong voted in favor of President Trump’s declaration. “The President took decisive action to secure the border by using authority delegated to him by Congress in case of a national emergency” Armstrong tweeted. He predictably went on to blame Democrats calling this a political vote that has no chance of becoming law. Why even try to uphold those separations of power, right?

Senator Kevin Cramer wrapped up a tour of North Dakota’s military bases last week. It followed Cramer’s predictable praise of Trump’s use of declaring a national emergency that would take money from the Defense Department and from military construction funds. When pressed about that fact, Cramer dodged saying he couldn’t imagine which defense projects might be cut for a border wall. Perhaps he wanted to avoid being caught making other false claims regarding Trump’s national emergency. Meanwhile, the top U.S. general for homeland defense said he sees no military threat coming from the southern border.

Shortly after President Trump declared a national emergency, I wrote about Senator John Hoeven flip-flopping on his position of executive overreach. Why is North Dakota’s Republican delegation so eager to give up their responsibilities as an equal branch of government? They lack principle. It is good to see another newly elected Republican from the upper Midwest take a consistent stand.

Tyler Axness