Two years ago, Donald Trump declared a made-up "emergency" at the U.S./Mexico border. Though the Republican conceded at the time that the emergency wasn't altogether real -- "I didn't need to do this," he conceded at a press conference -- he did it anyway, using the declaration to grant himself powers to address the imagined crisis.
It wasn't long before officials started wondering aloud about the long-term effects of such a move. "Democratic presidents can declare emergencies as well," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in February 2019. "So, the precedent that [Trump] is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans."
The point was not lost on some in the GOP. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CNBC at the time, "If today, the national emergency is border security ... tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change."
Rubio's fear, in particular, came to mind last night.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview Monday night that President Biden should consider increasing the urgency of the climate crisis. "I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency," Schumer told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. The move, he said, would enable Biden to do "many, many things under the emergency powers."
The Democratic leader added that the new president could pursue ambitious changes on climate with "flexibility" and "without legislation" -- which is precisely what Trump did along the border.
"Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn't an emergency," Schumer said, adding, "If there ever was an emergency, climate is one.... After all, it's a crisis."
There are statutory limits on emergency powers to consider, but broadly speaking, Schumer raised an important point. Trump opened a door to using emergency declarations to pursue one of his priorities; no one should be surprised if Biden at least considers doing the same thing.
In fact, as we discussed two years ago, the example of the climate crisis because it, unlike the need for giant border barriers, is real. As NBC News' Benjy Sarlin explained at the time, if a Democratic administration were to try such a move, "compared to the wall, there would be tons of government studies and testimony from [national security] officials backing up a crisis frame."
There's no word from the Biden White House about whether Schumer's suggestion is under consideration, but don't be surprised if this sparks a conversation that leads to real action.