Hypocrisy is a term often bandied about too easily. But it was crystallized in a single moment Thursday, when 41 Republican senators voted to surrender their legislative authority to an overreaching president.
The issue was the power of the purse as spelled out in Article I of the Constitution, which decrees that the people's representatives, not the president, decide how tax dollars are spent.
But in Thursday's vote, the feckless 41 supported President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration aimed at redirecting billions of tax dollars to fund his border wall. Congress had specifically refused to provide this money, so Trump simply took it upon himself to fund it without Congress.
A total of 59 senators, including a dozen right-minded Republicans, voted to block Trump's emergency order. But that's eight votes short of the two-thirds needed to override a promised presidential veto.
Among those surrendering on principle were senators who had thundered against President Barack Obama for executive overreach on lesser issues, including Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas. But their ire over an imperial presidency quickly drained away when a Republican president trampled on Congress' power of the purse.
STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL: National emergency declaration is constitutional
Nor will they and others who voted to safeguard Trump's power grab have any credibility to complain when a future Democratic president invokes emergency powers on, say, gun violence or climate change.
Leading up to Thursday's vote, Trump chided Republican senators over the choice they had to make, arguing that they were "overthinking" it, and that what really mattered was border control and the crime he claims that walls will stop.
He has it wrong. Congress settled the issue of money for border security during last month's negotiations that ended the government shutdown.
History will look kindly on the dozen Senate Republicans who put constitutional principle over short-term political considerations. The other 41, not so much.
Now, presuming that Congress upholds Trump's "VETO!", as he tweeted after the vote, it will be up to the courts to make it clear that the president is not a king.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: On national emergency vote, 41 Republican senators pledge loyalty to royalty