Republicans join forces with Democrats to defeat Trump border emergency

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (March 14, 2019) — The Republican-run Senate rejected President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border on Thursday.

The Senate voted 59-41 to cancel Trump's February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion more for border barriers than Congress had approved. Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in defying Trump in a showdown many GOP senators had hoped to avoid because he commands die-hard loyalty from millions of conservative voters who could punish defecting lawmakers in next year's elections.

The defecting Republicans included Mitt Romney of Utah, Ohio's Rob Portman, Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah, Florida's Marco Rubio and Rand Paul of Kentuckyy.

With the Democratic-controlled House's approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump. He has shown no reluctance to casting his first veto to advance his campaign exhortation to "Build the Wall," and it seems certain Congress will lack the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override him.

"I'll do a veto. It's not going to be overturned," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "It's a border security vote."

In a measure of how remarkable the confrontation was, Thursday was the first time Congress has voted to block a presidential emergency since the National Emergency Act became law in 1976.

Even before Thursday's vote, there were warnings that GOP senators resisting Trump could face political consequences. A White House official said Trump won't forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.

At the White House, Trump did not answer when reporters asked if there would be consequences for Republicans who voted against him.

Underscoring the political pressures in play, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who last month became one of the first Republicans to say he'd oppose Trump's border emergency, said Thursday he'd vote to support it. Tillis, who faces a potentially difficult re-election race next year, cited talks with the White House that suggest Trump could be open to restricting presidential emergency powers in the future.

Trump and Republicans backing him said there is a legitimate security and humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. They also said Trump was merely exercising his powers under the law, which largely leaves it to presidents to decide what a national emergency is.

"The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Republicans had hoped that Trump would endorse a separate bill by Utah's Sen. Lee constraining emergency declarations in the future and that would win over enough GOP senators to reject Thursday's resolution.

But Trump told Lee on Wednesday that he opposed Lee's legislation, prompting Lee himself to say he would back the resolution.

On Twitter, Trump called on Republicans to oppose the resolution, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., helped drive through the House last month.

"Today's issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don't vote with Pelosi!" he tweeted, invoking the name of a Democrat who boatloads of GOP ads have villainized in recent campaign cycles.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is backing Trump, went to the White House late Wednesday with other senators to see if some compromise could be reached that would help reduce the number of GOP senators opposing Trump, according to a person familiar with the visit who described it on condition of anonymity. The effort fell short.

The National Emergency Act gives presidents wide leeway in declaring an emergency. Congress can vote to block a declaration, but the two-thirds majorities required to overcome presidential vetoes make it hard for lawmakers to prevail.

 

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