Border wall

Democrat Senator on Trump's Enthusiasm for Eminent Domain: 'Language You'd Expect Out of Some Autocrat'

"What a betrayal of conservative principles this is," Sen. Michael Bennet says.


Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

Amid the debate over President Donald Trump's use of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the issue of eminent domain often doesn't get the attention it deserves.

While Reps. Will Hurd (R–Texas) and Justin Amash (R–Mich.) have raised serious concerns about the wall's implications for private property rights, many other members of Congress, including self-proclaimed small-government conservatives, don't see this as a major issue.

But it is.

The federal government owns less than a third of the land on the southern border. The rest belongs to the states, Native American tribes, and private individuals. Most of the border land in Texas is private property, and as some of those landowners explained to Reason TV, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press, they don't plan to go down without a fight.

If those landowners can't count on the majority of congressional Republicans, they can at least count on folks like Sen. Michael Bennet (D–Colo.), who criticized Trump in a Senate floor speech on Thursday for his imminent use of eminent domain. Bennet's comments came as the Senate debated a measure the House has already passed that would block Trump's national emergency declaration.

"The president couldn't get Mexico to pay for the wall. He couldn't get a Republican House and a Republican Senate to pay for the wall," Bennet said in a fiery speech. "So now he's violating the Constitution to steal money that has been appropriated by this branch." Trump's national emergency declaration seeks to repurpose $3.6 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget for the wall. Congress only voted to allocate $1.375 billion for this purpose.

"He's stealing that money from the Department of Defense, from our war fighters, from the United States military," Bennet said, "to expropriate private land held by American farmers and ranchers, many of whom, I assume, are Republicans, through eminent domain."

"If any person tried to do that in Colorado, there's not a person in our delegation that would support that: Stealing our farms and ranches," he said indignantly.

Bennet went on to cite several of Trump's past comments on the issue of eminent domain. (For more on Trump's terrible record on property rights, read the Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin.) Eminent domain "is used incredibly rarely because most people don't want the government deciding whether they can live in their house, or on their farm, or on their ranch," Bennet said.

In 2015, Trump called eminent domain "a wonderful thing" and suggested that people who complain over having to sell their homes "just want money." In February 2016, Trump told Breitbart that "we are going to need a little eminent domain to get that wall built, just so you understand."

"You need eminent domain. You have to take certain areas, OK?" Trump said at the time.

That 2016 quote, Bennet said, is "the kind of language you'd expect out of some autocrat someplace, not in a democracy."

The Colorado Democrat then turned the table on Republicans who support Trump's national emergency declaration. "That is what you are supporting when you vote with him on this bill," he said. "I don't know how anybody goes home and defends…misappropriating money that's been dedicated to the Department of Defense, to our military—to take that money extra-constitutionally and use it to take the property of law-abiding American citizens."

"What a betrayal of conservative principles this is," he said. "And I don't understand it—why people would cash in their conservative principles so cheaply."

Trump, for his part, has continued to defend the idea of using eminent domain to build the wall. "[Lawsuits are] not going to hold [the wall] up because under the military version of eminent domain and under, actually, homeland security we can do it before we even start," he said in January.

Federal law does allow for military department secretaries to "acquire any interest in land" if "the acquisition is needed in the interest of national defense."

Amash, meanwhile, has introduced legislation that would essentially require the federal government to offer landowners "just compensation" before seizing their property to make room for the wall. This bill, however, appears destined to go nowhere.

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61 responses to “Democrat Senator on Trump's Enthusiasm for Eminent Domain: 'Language You'd Expect Out of Some Autocrat'

  1. One who is truly committed to draining the swamp would never proclaim that eminent domain is a great thing as to do so would broadcast one’s cognitive dissonance.

    1. At this point, I’m fairly certain that the President can not actually drain the swamp even if they were inclined to do so.

    2. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.


  2. One of my biggest pet peeves is when multiple arguments are bundled together to reach a particular conclusion… but they aren’t all correct.

    Trump is NOT acting unconstitutional. Congress ceded this authority to him. He is the head of the DoD. It is HIS budgeted money. The DoD is spending money the DoD was allotted for a wall under the auspices of national security (a DoD jurisdiction so to speak). I may not like any of that and wish it were not so… but my wishing it doesn’t change any of it. None of this goes against conservative ideals as it all falls under black letter law. And Congress has a voice still… they can vote to cancel his order and then try to override a veto. Not having the votes doesn’t mean you were powerless or ignored… or means you didnt have the votes.

    The complaint about eminent domain, however, is a great complaint about conservatives giving up their principles. This issue alone needs to be addressed separately. And in a way that is applicable in all instances. Eminent domain is one of the very worst forms of oppression. It is to the right to property as the draft is to the right to liberty.

    1. I thought national security was for DHS, not DOD. Anyway, it’s not a national security issue. And the concept of national security is not well defined. Can you give us your definition, or the definition that Trump is using?

      1. The fact that it isn’t well defined is partly why it is, sadly and strangely, legal. Our common law history has created a Frankenstein’s monster of jurisprudence where unless it is explicitly stated… pretty much anything goes for what the gov can do (and in some cases where things are explicitly stated the gov can still do whatever it wants). I dont have a definition I’m using which is exactly why it would be seen as allowable under the law. It says the Pres can declare… without any other language it would seem that it is left to the pres to figure out what meets his own standard and the check on that being Congress’ ability to try and vote it down.

        Mind you… I’m not a fan of what he’s doing. But that doesn’t make it illegal.

        And DoD vs DHS… either way they fall under him as the top executive so the point remains. Still his budget to play with.

        1. Ok, thanks for explaining your position. Doe the president have the authority to take funds from one department and use them for another department?

          1. As you know, when Congress allows Executive discretion is fund use, then funds can be used for different project at the discretion of Executive Branch agencies.

            Thanks for playing Chipper.

            1. The short version is the law in this area if incredibly shitty to a lot of people but it is also the law and totally legal. Specifically, it’s a law that Congress appears unwilling to do away with even while crying their eyes out over this particular use of it. I’d be fine with Congress coming together to do away with the many ’emergency powers’ that usurp Congressional authority, but since they’re not going to do that I don’t see why we should let them selectively decide which Presidents can use them outside the language of the statute itself.

              1. And congress won’t change the law because they themselves hope to utilize the law for their own parties purposes plus it gives them the political theater they need to show the other party is the boggy man

      2. If securing the border isn’t national security, nothing is.

        1. Bullshit. In actual war, borders are routinely abandoned for more defensible positions. Military necessity doesn’t give a fuck about lines in the sand.

          1. Especially red ones.

    2. The open border people know what you are saying is correct. They just don’t like it.

      The Lefties have no problem taking land for whatever pet project they have.

      Another favorite Lefty government taking tactic is to freeze your property rights, so you own the land and pay taxes but cannot build on it or don’t fully control it.

      This is about national defense and is 100% constitutional. Even better is that Trump out-smarted the Lefties…again.

      1. open border proponents = lefties
        lefties like eminent domain
        open border proponents like eminent domain

        Q: Which logical fallacy is this?

        1. Poor Juice. Mixing sentences that I wrote.

          Open border people might or might not be Lefties. Ken Schultz is an open border person and NOT a Lefty.
          Lefties “have no problem taking land for whatever pet project they have.” This might or might not a wall.

          1. LC1789 has no problem taking land for his (ridiculous and inevitably ineffective) pet project, which makes him the moral equivalent of a lefty. QED

            1. Poor troll marshul is back.

    3. You need to re-read the article. The DoD was allocated a little under $1.4B for this purpose. Trump is trying to spend $3.6 B.

      Despite being the Commander-in-Chief, Trump does not have discretion to redirect all DoD spending to his own preferences. Congress has the power of the budget and they have elected to express that power at a lower level than “all military”. So money allocated within one bucket of the budget actually has to stay within that bucket. Not even the C-in-C can change that.

    4. Eminent domain is specifically allowed in the Constitution, by the Fifth Amendment.
      If the need to seize land, for something like a highway, because that is the best, if not the only, way the road should be laid, then doing the same for a border barrier – THAT CAN’T BE ANYWHERE BUT ON THE BORDER – is just as justified.
      How can border protection NOT be considered for “public use”.
      This is not like KELO, where the “public use” was simply for more prosperous tax collecting, thus making the claim specious, at best. It is for the public use of protecting the border.
      Only one person is assigned the role of protecting the nation. If he/she thinks the border needs protecting, then it does.

    5. It’s our borders which are the highest priority to defend . The idea that some problem among foreign countries on the other side of the world might warrant a “national emergency” spending , but not our border is upside-down logic .

  3. Who cares what Democrats think about principles?

    Democrat principles involve stealing as much money as they can from taxpayers and threatening us all with imprisonment for making almost any choice about our lives without their approval in advance.

    1. So, your answer is ignore the fact that the principle argument is correct because of who said it?

      1. That’s like 90% of the comments on here.

      2. I just tune out when phony jerks try to troll people. They want to punish others and absolve themselves for the same behavior.

        When people are two-faced, it’s foolish to listen to either of the two faces.

        1. Its like all the trolls dropping sympathies for SparkY.

          Notice who comments and who does not.

        2. So, it’s ok if I rape your wife, so long as I get a Democrat to say that rape is immoral first?

          You’re morally bankrupt.

          1. I don’t care what the Democrat says. Not in that case, not in any case.

            You’re a fool if you listen to them.

      3. When it comes from someone, who didn’t object to the principle being violated, when “his” president did it, then YES!
        IMHO, we should never listen to anything one of these communists says.

    2. Good way to avoid the issue.

    3. +100

      Here come the trolls with non-arguments.

      1. -101

        I win.

          1. Negative one for the other team, 0 for me = I win.


            1. Looks like troll Eric amd troll Marshaul are the same programmer.

  4. “If any person tried to do that in Colorado, there’s not a person in our delegation that would support that: Stealing our farms and ranches,” he said indignantly.”

    The man has a point. I agree with him.

    I wonder what he thinks of the Green New Deal? The amount of land that will need to be “stolen” to build wind farms and solar farms and train tracks will make the land taken for the wall seem like round off.

    1. Nah, we’ve got tons and tons of “public” land they can toss ’em on. I’ve heard Yosemite has pretty good winds.

    2. Uhh, one doesn’t even need to go that far. One might simply ask how much of Colorado itself is government land because looking at a map of the state it looks like there sure are a lot of national parks. Last I checked, those were not government land just a handful of decades ago.

      1. Most of the Western states are around 50% (or greater) *Federally owned*. Of course, most of what the Federal government owns isn’t close to the border . . .

    3. These stupid Democrats and their lies.

      No government agency ever used eminent domain to seize land for interstates or other roads, etc? No land was seized to build the Denver Airport?

      These people are fucking liars.

      1. This is one area where both sides are definitely liars. It’s pretty obvious that in this case it’s because the specific eminent domain question is one they are against. It’s certainly not an unprecedented action, some of the past darlings of the left used it to nationalize vast swaths of land which they claim were wonderful things in retrospect.

        1. Remember when Clinton declared the land with the cleanest naturally burning coal in teh world was now off limits. The left makes everything into parks and they won’t put wind turbins on preserved nature parks so they will take more land for their Green purposes

  5. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.


  6. Well we wouldn’t have this problem if it wasn’t for the liberal wing of the court giving us the disastrous Kelo decision.

    1. …which has no bearing on this situation.

  7. Democrat Senator on Trump’s Enthusiasm for Eminent Domain: ‘Language You’d Expect Out of Some Autocrat’

    Who cares what Democrats say about the Constitution or what Conservative Principles are. Democrats don’t like either and usually don’t even know the Constitution or what Conservative Principles even are.

    Eminent Domain is specifically listed in the Constitution and so is the enumerated right for a Common Defense.

    This border security fence/wall is getting built just as we said it would.

    Your open border deflections were stupid and trashed quickly. You lose, Losers.

    1. Who cares what LC179 [says] about the Constitution or what Conservative Principles are. LC1789 [doesn’t] like either and usually [doesn’t] even know the Constitution or what Conservative Principles even are.

      1. Check out bracket troll.

  8. Hilarious. Bennet is concern trolling the his Republican colleagues, and making them look like the principle-less hacks that they are.

    1. All politics has become is concern trolling and political stunts. Justin Amash is the only serious person in all of Washington. Everybody else is entirely unserious.

    2. Emmenent Domain is a specific power of the federal government listed in the Constitution. The problem with ED is when it is used for a private purpose like building some crony’s factory. A wall on the border is a public purpose if there ever was one.

      The only principleless hack here is people like you who think “I don’t like it” is the same as “its unconstitutional”.

      1. ^ times 1000

  9. Something is not un-constitutional until a court has decided its unconstitutional and even then only unconstitutional if the deemed unconstitutional act is not stopped

  10. So Sen. Michael Bennett, D. Colo., thinks that eminent domain is something we’d expect from an autocrat, does he? So can we expect that he will be proposing federal legislation to overturn the Kelo v. City of New London decision? Or he just as selective in his application of principle as the conservatives he is attacking?

  11. The Republican idiots who post here are utterly devoid of any moral compass, and this thread is about all the proof you could ask for of this contention.

    By their logic, all it takes is for “the Democrats” to commit crime x, and then everyone is entitled to commit crime x.

    “Who gives a fuck if I murder someone? The Democrats did it first!”

    Remember when you were a child, and your parents told you that “two wrongs don’t make a right”? I thought not.

    1. This thread is about eminent domain, not “the demoncraps did it so we can”, though there is a certain argument that if one side gets away with it, with impunity, then why shouldn’t the other?
      Your two wrongs not making a right is moot for those people, who say it wasn’t wrong when President Pen and Phone did it, so STFU!

  12. Betrayal of principles? Trump has not only supported Eminent Domain but has, on more than one occasion, engaged government officials to seize the property of others to sell to him and his various investment groups.

    The most notable attempted victim was Vera Coking, an elderly widow in Atlantic City whose home Trump wanted for a casino parking lot (for limousines), along with several other pieces of property. The Institute for Justice helped thwart Trump’s effort.

    Another case was (or is) that of Michael Forbes, a Scottish farmer whose property Trump wanted for a Signature golf course.

    1. Those may have been wrong in his encouraging of abusing the system by local politicians.
      They have no bearing on his use of it for the very purpose for which it was intended – a need for the public use pf land, that cannot be done anywhere else.

      1. “…a need for the public use pf land, that cannot be done anywhere else.”

        It is rarely the case that an eminent domain case could not be done somewhere else, if at all. The wall does not take up much space. Most eminent domain cases are for building or widening roads – not a proper function of government.

  13. Because Democrats have always been so respectful of private property rights. This is nothing but blind partisanship on display. Trump may be bad, but the rest are no better

Comments are closed.